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MUSCAT, Oman (VN) — Chris Froome sent out a Tour de France warning shot this week, calling his off-season, “the best winter I’ve had to date.”
At the Tour of Oman, Froome has begun his march towards the Tour, where he placed second behind Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins last July.
“It’s very early days to be talking about the Tour de France now,” Froome said. “If anything, [Oman] will show how the winter has gone for everyone. It’s always good coming into the season with a positive feeling.”
Froome followed the pre-race favorites when Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) attacked on the final climb of stage 2 on Tuesday. After the descent into the finish, Froome finished just seven seconds back of stage winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale).
Though he lives in Monaco during the season, this winter Froome based himself in South Africa. He spent a large chunk of his adolescence in South Africa after growing up in Kenya. A new training base helped contribute to his fitness for the 2013 season.
“I’d say to date it’s been the best winter I’ve had. It’s fair to say,” Froome said. “Just the consistency of training, the stability of my life at home. I’ve got my own place now, back in South Africa. I don’t think I missed a day of training in the last three months out there.”
Froome was home, near Johannesburg, from November through January, when he joined Sky at its pre-season camp in Mallorca. “It’s a place to call home,” he said, “A place to go back to at the end of the season.”
At the 2012 Tour, Froome was Wiggins’ biggest rival, despite the two being teammates. He only lost time due to a puncture on the opening stage, and also in the two time trials. He placed second, 3:21 behind Wiggins. At the 2011 Vuelta a España, Froome finished second overall, just 13 seconds behind Spaniard Juan José Cobo, but 1:39 ahead of Wiggins, who was third.
Given those results, much attention is given to Froome’s off-season and pre-Tour race program. After Oman, Froome races Tirreno-Adriatico, possibly Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné. Like Wiggins, he will train at altitude in Tenerife, possibly in April and May.
“He’s had a solid winter, probably the most consistent winter that he’s had,” Sky manager David Brailsford told VeloNews. “He’s got the foundation. On top of that you can build the specifics.”
Froome said he welcomes the warm season opener in Oman, given that it snowed over the weekend around Monaco.
“The more countries that can embrace cycling, the better it is for us,” he said. “Personally, I’d much rather keep racing closer to the southern hemisphere until April. The races like this are perfect.”