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July 22, 2015 – Chris Froome’s Tour de France rivals Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador have resolved to attack the Briton in the Alps. Team Sky’s Froome was the master of the Pyrenees after crushing the opposition in the first summit finish of this year’s race. Second-placed Quintana says he has trained to be consistently strong throughout the three weeks and he is known for finishing with a flourish in the final week of a Grand Tour.
Two years ago, in his debut Tour, Quintana won the final Alpine stage having also taken a minute out of Froome, the eventual winner, on Alpe d’Huez.
“They’re beautiful stages (in the Alps) that are coming and we hope to gain back the time we’ve lost. “I don’t know if we’ll overtake Froome, but we’ll try. Even though it would be satisfying to be on the podium in Paris, the main aim we’re working for is the yellow jersey.”
Quintana is second at 3min 10sec but his Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde is fourth at 4min 02sec. The Spaniard is more likely to throw caution to the wind both because he is further back, and because he can act as a foil for Quintana.
His best Tour result was fourth last year but the 35-year-old is eyeing even more this time around. “We have to fight for everything. It would be phenomenal to finish second and third but we must give our utmost to be first,” he said. “Therefore we’ll attack wherever we can, whether on the climbs or the descents.”
While Valverde would be happy with a first ever podium finish on the Tour and Quintana, at 25, has many years ahead of him to challenge, Contador has only one idea in mind.
The two-time former winner has no interest in finishing anywhere other than top of the pile as he bids to become the first rider since the late Marco Pantani in 1998 to achieve the Giro/Tour de France double in the same year. “I’m very motivated for this last week. The Tour’s not over,” said the 32-year-old Spaniard, currently sitting fifth at 4min 23sec.
“My aim at this Tour is only the yellow jersey. I came here to win — I wouldn’t be happy with a podium place.” Both Contador and reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali, a distant eighth after his Pyrenean disaster, tried to attack on the final climb in Monday’s 16th stage.
Nibali made his stick and then gained more ground on the descent to the finish in Gap, while Valverde also tried to distance the yellow jersey on the tricky downhill section off the Col du Manse. Froome expects more of the same from his rivals, particularly on Wednesday’s descent from the Col d’Allos ahead of the final climb to Pra Loup — something Frenchman Romain Bardet did during last month’s Criterium du Dauphine on an identical finish.
“We got definitely a good taste of what could happen in the Dauphine with Bardet going over the top there, taking a minute on the descent and riding on to the stage victory,” said the Team Sky leader.
“I expect people really to take on the race there. “Nibali, maybe the guys from Movistar, Alberto Contador — it wouldn’t be the first time he’s taken on the race on a descent. As a team we’ve got to expect anything and be ready for it.”
With four back-to-back Alpine stages totaling 18 categorized climbs ahead of them, Froome says the challenges will be different every time.
“These next four stages: each stage has its own particular challenges to overcome. “(Wednesday’s) descent off Allos and final ascent up to Pra Loup, then the Lacets stage (18), everyone’s seen that climb, it’s probably the most picturesque climb on this year’s Tour with so many switchbacks in a short distance. “Then La Toussuire (19) can be extremely selective… and then Alpe d’Huez (20) — hopefully I’ll go better than last time.”