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Chris Froome to take on hot Quintana in Spain

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The pack ride during the last stage of the 68th edition of "La Vuelta" Tour of Spain, a 109,6 kilometres ride from Leganes to Madrid, in September 2013. Photo: Jaime Reina/AFP
17:03 CEST+02:00
Chris Froome will go head-to-head with in-form Colombian rider Nairo Quintana when the final Grand Tour of the season, the majestic Tour of Spain, gets underway in Jerez on Saturday.

Froome's defence of the Tour de France was ended by hand injuries after a series of nasty falls just five stages into the race last month, but he has recovered in time to try and make up for that disappointment to take his place as Team Sky leader.

"This is exactly the sort of challenge that I need after the disappointment of withdrawing from the Tour de France," the 29-year-old Kenyan born star said.

For a full list of all the stages, see the bottom of this article.

"You can't dwell on disappointment, you have to move on quickly to the next thing and the Vuelta has become the perfect race for me to focus on."

The gruelling 21-stage race features eight mountain finishes, two individual time trials and gets underway with a team time-trial through Jerez.

In a break from tradition the final stage will also be an individual time trial into the northwestern city Santiago de Compostela rather than the final day parade around Madrid.

Sky sporting director Dario Cioni is hoping a fast start can give Froome the upper hand.

"With the team time trial straight away we have an opportunity to give Chris a head start," he told skysports.com

"We've got a strong team here so why not aim to have a fast start and get a good result for the team? And a good result is going to be to try and win the stage."

Movistar's Quintana has been in sublime form this season as he claimed his first Grand Tour victory in the Giro d'Italia in June before also winning on his return to action in the Tour of Burgos last week.

He should also be fresher than his rivals having not competed in the Tour de France despite coming second to Froome in 2013. The 24-year-old, though, has stiff competition just to be the lead rider in his own team as Movistar have named both he and 2009 Tour of Spain winner Alejandro Valverde as co-leaders for the race.

"Having Nairo and Alejandro we have to start with the intention of fighting to win," said Movistar's general manager Eusebio Unzue.

"Nairo, after 70 days without competing, has return to show his professionalism to get to the start line in great condition and we know Alejandro is a very important man for us and can also be in the fight for the general classification."

However, Unzue is still wary of the threat caused by Froome.

"Froome has been dominant in the Grand Tours over the past few years and therefore out of respect he ought to be favourite."

Two-time winner Alberto Contador will also be making his return after a broken shinbone forced him out of the Tour de France. However, the Spaniard has played down expectations that he can challenge for the overall victory given his lack of preparation time.

"I know that it is a Tour of Spain that I will have to plan very differently from what I had intended at the start of the season or how I planned at the start of the Tour de France.

"But I think I can come into the race thinking about ending the season well and starting next year with more guarantees.

"Perhaps in the last week I will be able to fight for a stage victory."    

Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez is likely to cause a threat in the mountains as he rides for Katusha.

However, reigning champion Chris Horner pulled out of the Tour of Spain on Friday as treatment he was receiving for bronchitis was deemed a health risk by his Lampre-Merida team.
 
La Vuelta stages:  
 
Stage 1: Saturday, August 23th - Jerez de la Frontera, 12.6km team time trial
Stage 2: Sunday, August 24th - Algeciras to San Fernando, 174.4km
Stage 3: Monday, August 25th - Cadiz to Arcos de la Frontera, 197.8km
Stage 4: Tuesday, August 26th - Mairena del Alcor to Cordoba, 164.7km
Stage 5: Wednesday, August 27th - Priego de Cordoba to Ronda, 180km
Stage 6: Thursday, August 28th - Benalmadena to La Zubia, 167.1km
Stage 7: Friday, August 29th - Alhendin to Alcaudete, 169km
Stage 8: Saturday, August 30th - Baeza to Albacete, 207km
Stage 9: Sunday, August 31st - Carboneras de Guadazaon to Aramon Valdelinares, 185km
Rest day: Monday, September 1st
Stage 10: Tuesday, September 2nd - Real Monasterio de Santa Maria de Veruela to Borja, 36.7km individual time trial
Stage 11: Wednesday, September 3rd - Pamplona to Santuario de San Miguel de Aralar, 153.4km
Stage 12: Thurday, September 4th - Logrono to Logrono, 166.4km
Stage 13: Friday, September 5th - Belorado to Obregon, 188.7km
Stage 14: Saturday, September 6th - Santander to La Camperona, 200.8km
Stage 15: Sunday, September 7th - Oviedo to Lagos de Covadonga, 152.2km

Story continues below…

Stage 16: Monday, September 8th - San Martin del Rey Aurelio to La Farrapona 160.5km
Rest day: Tuesday, September 9th
Stage 17: Wednesday, September 10th - Ortigueira to A Coruna, 190.7km
Stage 18: Thursday, September 11th - A Estrada to Monte Castrove, 157km
Stage 19: Friday, September 12th - Salvaterra do Mino to Cangas do Morrazo, 180.5km
Stage 20: Saturday, September 13th - Santo Estevo do Ribas de Sil to Puerto de Ancares, 185.7km
Stage 21: Sunday, September 14th - Santiago de Compostela, 9.7km individual time trial

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