HILTERFINGER, Switzerland (AFP) — Chris Froome insists he still has the hunger and desire to keep dominating the Tour de France for years to come.
Speaking from his hotel in Switzerland on the second and final Tour rest day on Tuesday, the 31-year-old Briton claimed to be as determined as ever to succeed.
“If anything, I feel this year has demonstrated how much I still have that hunger and that desire to win this race,” he said. “From the first two weeks, I feel I’ve really taken every opportunity possible. I’ve attacked on a descent, I’ve attacked in crosswinds, I time trialed as hard as I can to be in this position.
“It feels like I’m giving this race my all and it means so much to me.”
Froome’s daring descent on stage 7 gave him his only stage win of the Tour so far and earned him 23 seconds over most of his rivals.
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Another surprise move on stage 11 saw Froome take advantage of strong winds to get another 12 seconds. He took the majority of time out of his rivals on the stage 13 time trial last Friday.
And while during his two previous Tour victories, in 2013 and 2015, Froome was “hanging on” in the final week as his main rival Nairo Quintana launched a comeback, this time around the Kenyan-born Briton says he’s getting stronger.
“Coming into this last week, myself personally I feel more ready for this third week than in previous editions,” he said.
“Starting this season later helped that, having a quieter run-in to the Tour helped that. My personal ambition is to be at my best in the third week of this race and I think I’m on track for that.”
The GC battle at this Tour has failed to spark into life so far. Froome believes one reason for that is the effect of “fatigue” on riders due to hard racing throughout the first two weeks.
It’s left Froome with a healthy advantage on his rivals, thanks in no small part to his solid time trial performance, and he doesn’t expect to have to attack over the next four stages in the Alps, where he believes the Tour will be won or lost.
“As it stands I’ve got almost three minutes on Quintana (2:59) and close to two minutes on [Bauke] Mollema (1:47),” Froome said. “Obviously, if I’m going to attack I need a good reason for it, I’m not just going to attack for the sake of attacking.
“We need to think about all the efforts that we’re making. It is at the back of everybody’s minds, these next four days are just so hard any energy spent until now that’s unnecessarily spent, that’s going to take away from what we have to spend these next four days.”
Froome dismissed suggestions that his rivals have been passive and unwilling to make a mark on the relentless tempo set by his Sky teammates on climbs.
Although so far no one has managed to get away from the group of favorites, Froome feels he has come under attack, just not from the person everyone was expecting.
“I think the race has been that hard. People say that the guys didn’t attack [in stage 15], but actually [Fabio] Aru attacked, [Alejandro] Valverde attacked, Romain Bardet attacked — the only guy who didn’t was Nairo Quintana,” Froome said.
“I think that’s who everyone was waiting for to attack, other people tried and they’re going to keep trying.”