LEON, Spain (VN) – Danny Pate says Sky remains quietly confident that Chris Froome can deliver the goods with the most decisive stages of the Vuelta a España looming in the coming week.
After 10 days of racing, the balance of the Vuelta will play out over the next six days of racing. Wednesday’s individual time trial and three brutal climbing stages in the mountains of Asturias over the weekend will dramatically alter the dynamic of what’s still a very tightly packed GC picture.
Pate is one of the workhorses on a very deep squad that Sky brings to the Vuelta to support Froome’s GC push.
The Kenya-born rider is getting the full support of Sky for the first time and wants to maximize the opportunity, with nothing short of overall victory as the ultimate goal in Madrid.
After missing out on a slot for Sky’s Tour nine, Pate said he’s very motivated to be racing for the win at the Vuelta.
VeloNews caught up with the American to talk Froome, Wednesday’s time trial and the real story behind the echelon controversy in stage 4.
VeloNews: So far things are going well for Froome. What’s the mood inside the bus?
Danny Pate: Everyone is riding is really well. We’re really confident in what we’ve come here to accomplish. The two Colombian guys are tearing up the climbs. If they were on any other team, they would be team leader. Having those two guys for Chris in the mountains is a big luxury. That’s not even mentioning Richie (Porte); he’s going to be there as well. That’s what we needed in this race, with so many climbing finishes.
VN: The big doubt about Froome is if he can hold his form from the Tour to the end of the Vuelta. How do you see Froome’s form right now?
DP: So far, Chris looks great. It is a bit of a tall task to do so well in the Tour, the Olympics and then to come over to the Vuelta. That’s hard to do. If he can manage that, it’s even more compliment of what he’s been able to accomplish this season.
VN: What’s Froome like behind the scenes? He’s always such a perfect English gentleman in public.
DP: I think he’s a competitor. Like most of the guys, he likes to win. I haven’t really thought about it. He doesn’t shy down from taking the risks that you need to take in the bike race. Everyone needs to be at the front. He’s savvy enough in the race and he really wants to win.
VN: How important is Wednesday’s time trial for Froome’s chances?
DP: It’s always very important, it’s a big stage for Chris to look to make gains on some guys. Riders like Rodríguez, it’s a great stage for Chris against him to take time, maybe not make as big a gain on Contador. Contador is a good time trialist as well. It’s very important.
VN: It seems like it’s going to be a dogfight between Sky and Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank. How do you see the two teams measuring up?
DP: Saxo Bank is really good. They have some good climbers here as well. They’re looking to do the exact same thing as we are, so it will really just come down to who is better on the climb. It will be pretty simple.
VN: It’s not easy to drop Froome. Do you think Contador can do it?
DP: He showed that the other day, the Cat. 3 finish (Fuerte de Rapitán), which was more like a Cat. 2 finish, to tell the truth, that he can be there on the climbs. That was a good preview of the climbing that’s to come. The bigger, longer climbs will be more telling. I do not know if we will see the same placings, with Rodríguez winning, because he’s better at those shorter climbs.
VN: There was a lot of flack over the echelon polemics in stage 4. You were right there. How did you see it going down?
DP: I was right there. I think most of everything has already been said about it. Anything negative was coming from one specific team. Everyone else didn’t really think anything was done wrong, except for that one team.
VN: Movistar says Sky caused the crash and then attacked the fallen leader, how do you react to that?
DP: That’s what happens in the crosswinds – crashes. That’s why [we] went in the crosswinds, because if we didn’t go, someone else would have. We attacked the crosswinds and there was a crash. There is a crash in every crosswind. We didn’t know who was in it. All we knew is that we were OK and the peloton was in five groups. We were not racing one individual there. We were racing everyone. Rabobank was in the second or third echelon. We weren’t just trying to get rid of Valverde. We were trying to get rid of Gesink, Mollema, everyone. The Rabobank guys said they had to fully commit to come back to the group. That’s what we were looking for. That’s what the race is in that situation. In football, if the defender slips, then the receiver runs for a touchdown, the receiver is supposed to stop or something? I don’t know. None of us were involved in the crash. The guys that crashed, they crashed themselves. That’s all about it that could be said. We were all in front of it.
VN: You were on the bubble for the Tour de France team. Were you upset to miss out on the historical ride by Sky?
DP: It’s always really hard to make the Tour team with this team. It’s hard to even make the Vuelta team on the best teams. I consider myself lucky and fortunate to be here. The Tour would have been something special for what happened. I just didn’t end up on that team. Everyone that was on our Tour team was an amazing rider. It’s not like it’s the end of the world. We’re riding for the win here. It’s very similar to the Tour.