Froome wary of Amer­i­can

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT -

RACE leader Chris Froome heads to the first moun­tain stages of the Tour de France in con­fi­dent mood – and with an un­ex­pected main ri­val.

The Bri­tish rider, seek­ing his sec­ond Tour win af­ter his dom­i­nant vic­tory in 2013, safely kept the yel­low jersey af­ter his Team Sky fin­ished one sec­ond be­hind Amer­i­can rider Te­jay van Garderen’s BMC in Sun­day’s team time trial, the ninth stage of a crash- marred race.

Van Garderen is 12 sec­onds be­hind Froome in sec­ond place, putting him ahead of Nairo Quin­tana of Colom­bia, Al­berto Con­ta­dor of Spain and Vin­cenzo Nibali of Italy.

The 26- year- old van Garderen has never fin­ished higher than fifth at the Tour, but is so far rid­ing like a con­tender.

“Those guys have that tag of ‘ Fab Four’, which is get­ting a bit ir­ri­tat­ing,” van Garderen said.

“All those guys in the top four have won Grand Tours ... It doesn’t mean I’m in­tim­i­dated by them ... I’m not afraid to beat them.”

The most dis­ap­point­ing of the ‘ Fab Four’ has so far been Nibali, who cracked on a short climb at the end of Satur­day’s eighth stage and lost more time in Sun­day’s TTT when his As­tana team fin­ished fifth.

“I thought ( Nibali) was go­ing to be the one guy from the main con­tenders who would gain time in this first phase of the race,” the 30- year- old Froome said. “I am sur­prised.”

Con­ta­dor, who en­tered the Tour on the back of his sec­ond Giro d’Italia win and sev­enth Grand Tour ti­tle, is in fifth place — 1 minute, 3 sec­onds be­hind Froome — while Quin­tana is 1: 59 be­hind in ninth and Nibali sits 2: 22 be­hind in 13th spot.

Froome has iden­ti­fied van Garderen as his main Tour ri­val.

“( The Pyre­nees) will be the test who is fit enough to win the Tour,’’ van Garderen said.

“And the Alps will ( show) who has enough stamina to get to the end.”

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