Where Le Tour will be won and lost

Where Le Tour will be won and lost

"I'm sure he will be at a great level in the Tour", he said. The climb to the summit finish at Peyragudes was where Froome famously went ahead of his Sky team leader and eventual race victor Brad Wiggins, confirming they were as much rivals as teammates.

Chris Froome says he is close to agreeing a contract extension that would keep the three-time Tour de France champion with Team Sky until 2021 - ample time to try to catch the elite group of riders with five titles.

The British team were clearly intent on showing a united front to a public which has grown increasingly sceptical of their methods since the last Tour.

Improving weather is expected early next week as the tour shifts southward through Luxembourg into northeast France.

"It's the first time in my career I have a fully dedicated team to me so it's my chance to have as good a crack as winning this race as possible".

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Froome has won three of the last four Tours and should he secure a fourth in Paris on July 23 he will join Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Jacques Anquetil in achieving such a feat. "He just told me to do the best I can".

Chris Froome has had his critics - most recently after showing rare moments of fallibility on the recent Criterium du Dauphine - and now even his 18-month-old son has got in on the act.

Whilst today's opening flat time trial stage will likely see few gaps between the favourites, an initial opportunity for Froome to re-stamp his authority will come as soon as Wednesday's first summit finish.

Some have considered your racing style in last year's Tour somewhat alternative.

A field of 198 riders will take to the roads of Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and of course France to compete across a distance of 3,540 kilometres, spread over 21 stages.

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French cycling fans have high expectations of Bardet, who is among the favourites for overall victory.

"But I don't think it's just going to be between Chris and me".

But with just three mountain top finishes during the Tour, where Quintana is usually at his best, the Colombian agreed with Froome's assessment that the eventual victor will have to be attack-minded on other stages where it is seemingly harder to gain time.

"Whatever happens over the next three weeks, I'm looking forward to keeping the BMC jersey on my back beyond the end of the season".

The Frenchman, who enjoys tasting wines from the Rhone valley and the Languedoc region, has had a hard start to the season, after being thrown out of the Paris-Nice stage race for taking an illegal tow from a team auto. He's been with the team a long time now and has a lot of experience.

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"I think I could be fit enough to ride in the Tour".

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