Froome feeling ‘fresher’ in bid for fourth Tour

DUSSELDORF, Germany (AFP) — Chris Froome insisted on Wednesday he was unconcerned by his failure to win a race yet this year. He says he feels “fresher” ahead of a bid for a fourth Tour de France win.

Over the last five years, the Briton has always won at least two stage races leading into the Tour, but this season he is yet to taste victory of any sort.

The Kenyan-born Team Sky leader insists he has simply been gauging his efforts so he can come on stronger as the Tour progresses.

“I feel as if I’m exactly where I need to be,” said Froome, who was fourth at the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier this month — a race he had won in the three previous years where he triumphed at the Tour.

“The Dauphiné was just what I needed to get that extra race rhythm — I had been very light on race days up to the Dauphiné, which means I’m coming into the Tour fresher than I’ve ever been before.

“If the numbers in training or my feeling on the bike are anything to go by, I’m ready for the next three weeks,” added the 32-year-old ahead of Saturday’s Tour start in Dusseldorf.

However, Froome gave a slightly ambiguous answer when asked whether his rivals would see him as more vulnerable having not won yet this year.

“Potentially. If the Dauphiné was anything to go by then Richie Porte, certainly in terms of form and condition, Richie’s going to be the man to beat — and stands out as the strongest of my rivals.”

Australian Porte used to be a teammate of Froome’s and helped him win his first two Tours in 2013 and 2015, before moving to BMC last year.

Porte finished fifth last year and looked set to win the Dauphiné earlier this month before being caught out tactically on the final stage and losing out to Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) by just 10 seconds.

The likes of Porte, Fuglsang, Nairo Quintana and even Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) come into the Tour having won stage races this year, but not Froome.

“Having a victory coming into the Tour de France is always great for morale and confidence, but I can take a lot of confidence from having won three Tours already,” said the Briton.

‘Tough to hang on’

He also insisted he had prepared himself differently to be able to maintain his form through to the Vuelta a España, which begins in August.

He is desperate to win the Vuelta after finishing second in Spain on two occasions.

“Sometimes I feel as if coming into grand tours, certainly in the third week, that’s when it gets really tough to hang on,” said Froome.

“I’d like to think we took a similar approach last year with the Olympics and Vuelta also in mind, and I think it did work for me last year.

“I came pretty close to being able to win both — I was first in the Tour and second in the Vuelta, and there was the Olympics in the middle as well which made it tricky — so there’s a similar kind of thinking.

“This year, if everything goes well, I would like to focus on the Vuelta as well.”

Froome, who revealed he is close to signing a three-year contract extension with Sky until 2021, said he ready to attack with aggression win this Tour.

“The race this year is going to favor more aggressive riders. I’m certainly looking for those opportunities and looking to ride a great race.

“If the opportunity’s there it’s more the mindset you come to the race with — you can’t train to be more aggressive, unless you go picking fights with all the cars — it’s more a mindset.

“You come to the race looking for opportunities and if opportunities present themselves, I’m definitely going to take them.”

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