Jerusalem - Chris Froome is trying to put his tumultuous
Giro d'Italia preparations behind him as he focuses on making history.
Froome has won the last two Grand Tours - the Vuelta a
Espana in September and the Tour de France before that in July.
Should he win the Giro this month, he would become only the
third man - and first in 35 years - to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the
The other two - Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault - are
amongst the sport's greats having both won the Tour de France a record five
Four-time winner Froome, 32, would like to try to emulate
them in July, should he be allowed to race, but for now it is the Giro
occupying his thoughts.
"That's a huge motivation for me, that was part of my
decision-making process in deciding to be here, in that I won the Tour last
year and the Vuelta," he said when asked about the cycling Grand Tour
"I can't remember the last time a rider won three Grand
Tours consecutively like that - it's a huge point for me."
His adverse analytical finding from a doping test during the
Vuelta last year hangs heavy on his shoulders, though, with much of the talk
leading up to the Giro centred on whether or not he should even be
The sport's world governing body, the UCI's rules do not
preclude him from continuing to race as he fights to clear his name and avoid a
But the UCI's own president, David Lappartient has said he
should withdraw from professional racing pending a solution to his case.
Organisers, though, are delighted to have the sport's
biggest star lining up in a dream scenario, taking on last year's champion Tom
Dumoulin and home hope Fabio Aru.
And even the potentially explosive decision to start the
race in Jerusalem, followed by two stages around Israel, hasn't dampened
"I've been pleasantly surprised. There was obviously a
lot of talk before coming here about the security concerns but it's been
fantastic," Froome said.
Dutchman Dumoulin, 27, could not hide his excitement at the
prospect of starting the race in such a fabled and atmospheric city.
"Our hotel is near the old city, I couldn't help myself
but I took the bike and rode a lap around the whole city and also through the
whole city," said the Sunweb team leader.
"I was getting a lot of eyes (strange looks): 'Who's
"Because I was in normal clothes but on a special road
Dumuolin's presence creates a particular challenge for
Froome, who has previously been used to putting time into his climbing
specialist rivals in time-trials.
That won't be the case against Dumoulin, the world
time-trial champion, who can also hold his own on the climbs.
"On paper I'm certainly not going to be able to rely on
time-trialing to try and win the Giro," said the Briton.
"The race is an extremely well balanced race this year:
there are time-trials but also a lot of mountains."
Those two certainly won't be able to keep their powder dry
in the mountains while waiting for the races against the clock, though, as
there are six summit finishes and a host of talented climbers hungry for
"I won't be conserving myself in front of Froome,"
said Aru, who has previously finished second and third at the Giro and vowed to
ride "an attacking race".
The 27-year-old pointed to the likes of Frenchman Thibaut
Pinot, who won last month's Tour of the Alps, Italian Domenico Pozzovivo and Colombia's
Miguel Angel Lopez as being "in great form".
"There could be 15 riders aiming for a high
finish," he added, mentioning Colombia's Esteban Chaves, Simon Yates of
Britain, New Zealander George Bennett and Canada's Michael Woods.