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Wednesday 28 September 2016

Froome is set for pressure

Leader in peak shape to fend off all-comers in the Alps

Chris Froome prepares for the start of the race. Picture Credit: REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier
Chris Froome prepares for the start of the race. Picture Credit: REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

Chris Froome is braced for the battle for the yellow jersey to heat up as the Tour de France enters its final week.

Since Froome moved into the race lead on stage eight there have been surprisingly few attacks from his rivals, leaving the Team Sky man still one minute 47 seconds ahead of Trek-Segafredo's Bauke Mollema with 16 stages gone.

But after yeserday's rest day the riders face four gruelling stages in the Alps and everything could yet change.

"I feel as if I've been waiting for these four days," Froome said. "Perhaps some other riders have too."

The second week of the Tour was notable for the failure, or inability, of Froome's rivals to make a dent in his advantage.

Froome put that down to how hard the racing has been as the riders have tackled plenty of climbing in the early days while flat days were made stressful by howling crosswinds.

"I think that one of the main reasons we've not seen massive attacks is the level of fatigue," he said. "At the moment everyone is nailed. The first two weeks have been full gas."

Movistar's Nairo Quintana, seen as the main threat to Froome but still two minutes 59 seconds down in fourth place, is yet to show his cards but the Colombian has usually been strongest in the final week of Grand Tours.

"Last year he made up a lot of time in the final week, and I expect he's going to be one of the main guys who is going to put us under pressure these next few days," Froome said of Quintana.

"We've always seen him have a good third week and I don't expect that to be any different."

This year, however, Froome is hoping his own conditioning is better after he changed his preparations for the Tour with the final week in mind.

"I feel more ready for the third week than I have been previously," Froome said.

"Starting the season later helped and I had a quieter run-in to the Tour. I said at the beginning of the race I wanted to be at my best in the third week and I think I'm on track for that."

Team Sky brought a climbing-orientated squad to the Tour with the third week in mind, and are hoping that will now pay dividends.

"We're confident for sure, but not over-confident" said Froome's team-mate Geraint Thomas.

"We're not getting carried away. The big difference is having that extra climber here. In the past we've never had five guys who can stay there in the end on their day.

"Froomey still has to ride his bike and get up the hills himself, but he has some great guys around him."

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