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Cycling | Vuelta

Chris Froome © Getty Images

Froome finally ends long Vuelta wait

As a four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome is used to winning, but the Briton has suffered a long wait to finally land the Vuelta a Espana.

Froome completed a historic Tour-Vuelta double on Sunday, becoming just the third rider in history to win both Grand Tours in the same year after Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil (1963) and Bernard Hinault (1978).

Even the normally bashful Froome admitted with his latest feat he was "sealing my place in the history of the sport."

However, Froome recognised that finally standing on top of the podium in Madrid in the leader's red jersey brought out different emotions to his Tour triumphs having fallen just short with three second-placed finishes in 2011, 2014 and 2016.

"I've been trying for years and I've been second three times, so to win the Vuelta now is incredible," he said after safely negotiating the daunting final climb of a brutal three-week race up Alto de l'Angliru on Saturday before Sunday's parade around Madrid's city centre.

"For me it certainly has been harder to win the Vuelta than the Tour."

It was seven years ago when Froome suddenly announced himself as a Grand Tour contender when he finished second by just 13 seconds despite operating as a domestique for Team Sky's then leader Bradley Wiggins.

Sky and Froome aren't accustomed to settling for second. After a tactical error saw Nairo Quintana take last year's Vuelta, Froome orchestrated a big change in his schedule that sacrificed arriving at the Tour in top shape to increase his chances of Vuelta success.

"Up until now my focus has been 100 percent on the Tour de France and trying to survive the Vuelta, whereas this year the plan was to start the season later," added Froome.

"Maybe I wasn't quite at my top, top for the Tour de France but it means I've been able to hold my form for longer and that has shown in this year's Vuelta."


That conditioning has been necessary for a merciless route filled with sharp mountain climbs in conditions ranging from 40 degree celsius heat to rain and freezing cold on Angliru.

"I have to say it's probably the toughest Grand Tour I've ridden," admitted Froome.

Froome hit the front as early as stage three and was never caught despite a stellar chasing pack including Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador on his final race before retirement.

His relentless strive for every second early on had many believing he was making hay, expecting a fall off in the final week as his efforts in taking on cycling's most physically demanding race straight off winning a fourth tour took hold.

Instead, he extended his advantage over Nibali – who arrived fresh having skipped the Tour – to 2min 15sec.

Having matched one historic feat of Anquetil and Hinault, Froome's attention will now turn to also equalling the record they hold with Miguel Indurain and Eddy Merckx of five Tour wins.

However, Vuelta victory also opens the door for Froome to try to enter another of cycling's pantheons of riders to have won all three Grand Tours by winning the Giro d'Italia.

"It's too early to say," Froome responded to queries over whether he will ride the Giro next season. "I'm just going to enjoy this moment."

A well-earned rest awaits after more than 4 200 and 42 days of racing since July 1.

"Moments like this make all the sacrifices, all the time away from home, from family, all worth it," added Froome. "It's such an incredible feeling."


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