Three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome said yesterday he expected this year’s Herald Sun Tour to be “even more competitive” and a tough battle against local and international challengers.
The defending Herald Sun Tour champion — who is launching his 2017 season in Australia — said last year’s Giro d’Italia runner-up Esteban Chaves (ORICA-Scott) and others were in “great shape”.
“This year’s going to be even more competitive with the likes of Chaves here,” Froome (Team Sky) said ahead of today’s tour prologue. “Last year I saw that the level of racing here in Australia’s really high for the local level and I think that there are more and more guys who wouldn’t necessarily be on our radars who we’re racing against here,” the 31-year-old Briton added.
Local star Simon Gerrans (ORS), who was second in Sunday’s Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race and has won the Herald Sun twice, said his major objective was to win the overall tour for the team.
“There are a couple of stages, possibly the one after Falls Creek that I think I can be a real contender for but the big objective this week is to win the overall,” he said.
“If stage one goes well and we’ve got Esteban right up there hopefully we’ll be defending a lead from there on. Esteban’s looking really good. We’ve seen him perform well already on courses which really don’t suit his capabilities down to the ground. Once we get up in the big mountains, up in the Victorian Alps we’ll see Esteban come into his own.”
Colombian Chaves, 27, had a break-out 2016 season. Apart from the Giro d’Italia, he was third at the Vuelta a Espana and winner of Italian ‘Monument’ race Il Lombardia. The Herald Sun tour includes a prologue and four stages in Victoria state from today to Sunday.
Kittel claims first stage in Dubai
Germany’s Marcel Kittel claimed the Tour of Dubai’s opening stage in a sprint from Dutch rival Dylan Groenewegen yesterday. Quick Step rider Kittel won two stages of the race last year on his way to overall victory. Briton Mark Cavendish came in third after the 181-kilometre stage which finished on the man-made archipelago of Palm Jumeirah. Today’s second of five stages is a 188km ride from Dubai to Ras al-Khaimah, one of the seven-member United Arab Emirates.
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