Despite the controversy surrounding the ongoing investigation into his use of asthma drugs at last year's Vuelta a España, British cyclist Chris Froome was on the start line in Mijas for the Vuelta a Andaluía road stage-race which got under way on Wednesday.
The Team Sky rider, who has not been suspended while the investigation continues, was the star attraction in La Cala de Mijas where crowds had gathered throughout the morning for a number of activities put on by the town hall, while also hoping to catch a glimpse of the riders.
Froome used the media attention before the race to insist that the doping scandal was an unwanted distraction and that he didn't see why he should be treated any differently. “This is a process that a lot of other riders have gone through, I don't see why I should have different treatment to all of them,” said Froome in response to suggestions that his team should have suspended him while the investigation continued. “It's not going to go any faster if I was sitting at home. We're going as fast as we can on it and hopefully get it resolved as soon as possible.”
Mijas was chosen as the start point for the nearly 200-kilometre first stage of the Vuelta a Andalucía, also known as the Ruta del Sol, to Granada.
The race began at 11.30am; the route passed up to Mijas Pueblo and Alhaurín de la Torre, before joining the A-7 and passing through La Cala del Moral, Rincón de la Victoria, Chilches, Benajarafe, Torre del Mar, Vélez-Málaga and La Viñuela on the eastern Costa del Sol, before heading inland to Granada.
Frenchman Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) was the early leader after winning Wednesday's stage.
A surprise defeat
Thursday's second stage between Otura and La Guardia de Jaén saw a surprise defeat for Froome whose hopes of winning the race were dented on the Alta de Allanadas summit finish.
The Brit had a bad day, finishing in seventh, 27 seconds behind stage winner and teammate Wout Poels.
However, he has a chance to make up ground in the third stage, a likely sprint stage which begins today (Friday) and runs from Mancha Real to Herrera. The fourth and penultimate stage is between Seville and Alcalá de los Gazules on Saturday before the final 14.2-kilometre run in Barbate on Sunday.