Chris Froome’s bid for Tour de France glory will get under way in earnest today as the race heads high into the Pyrenees.
The Team Sky man has been in survival mode for the first week of the Tour, simply trying to avoid trouble on the twisty roads of Corsica and the relative flat of the Mediterranean coastline.
But today’s 195-kilometres stage takes the riders from Castres to the ski resort of Ax 3 Domaines, with the first hors categorie climb of the Tour expected to see Froome and his main rival Alberto Contador throw their opening punches.
“The first real mountain stage is a bit like the first round in boxing – you go in and test your partner to see how his fitness is and I’m sure there will be a bit of sparring tomorrow,” Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford said.
This is what Froome has waited for. Where Sir Bradley Wiggins won last year’s Tour on the back of his time-trialling ability, Froome is a climber, and this year’s mountainous course is to his liking.
It is what he and his chief lieutenant Richie Porte relish, and Froome has spoken of little else all week except his desire for the road to start ramping upward.