Digne-les-Bains - 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
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
Quintana is second at 3min 10sec but his
Movistar team-mate 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
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
"I expect people really to take on the
"Nibali, maybe the guys from Movistar,
Alberto Contador - it wouldn't be the first time he's taken on the race on a
"As a team we've got to expect
anything and be ready for it."
With four back-to-back Alpine stages
totalling 18 categorised 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."