Chris Froome set to make controversial return to racing
Chris Froome will make his controversial return to racing at the Ruta del Sol on Wednesday.
The four-time Tour de France winner is still fighting to prove his innocence after returning an adverse analytical finding for asthma drug salbutamol at La Vuelta - a race he won in an historic Tour-Vuelta double - last year.
Several rivals, as well as UCI president David Lappartient, have called for Froome to be suspended by Team Sky until the case is resolved.
But the 32-year-old will race on, adamant he will clear his name, and will begin his 2018 season when the Ruta del Sol starts in the Spanish town of Mijas on Wednesday - his first race since he took bronze in the individual time trial at the Road World Championships in Bergen, Norway on September 20.
"About to head to Ruta del Sol," Froome wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. "I want to thank everyone for their support & patience over this difficult period. I am doing my utmost to ensure that things are resolved as speedily as possible. Can't wait to get this season started!!"
By racing on, Froome - who is targeting the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France this year - risks having any results wiped out should he be hit with a suspension by the UCI.
Froome won the Ruta del Sol, also known as the Vuelta a Andalucia, when he last raced in 2015, making the decisive move on the summit finish to Alto de Allanadas. That climb returns to the route of this year's event at the end of stage two.
To win again, he will need to beat a field including defending champion Alejandro Valverde, who has started the season in ominous form following his return from injury, and former team-mate Mikel Landa, who is now alongside Valverde at Movistar.
A hilly start to the race, coupled with a final time trial around Barbate, should suit Froome, who has done extensive training in South Africa over the winter while the controversy over his situation has raged in Europe.