Belfast Telegraph

Chris Froome leads the Tour de France pack

Chris Froome has made the strongest start at the Tour de France
Chris Froome has made the strongest start at the Tour de France
Jonathan Bradley

By Jonathan Bradley

After a time-trial won by Rohan Dennis on Saturday and a sprint finish taken by Andre Greipel yesterday, today's belated introduction of some hill climbs to the Tour de France should see the battle for the famed yellow jersey really begin.

Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana have accounted for seven of the last eight Grand Tours and the quartet's involvement this month sets up what could be one of the most intriguing tours of recent years.

Crossing the border from Holland into Belgium, the steep third stage brings the race's first uphill finish at the Mur de Huy and the preceding categorised climbs offer the possibility for the favourites to make a real early statement.

Froome, the 2013 winner, whose place in Sunday's breakaway sees him begin today in the top 10 of the general classification, has made the strongest start and is already a minute and a half up on both Nibali and Quintana.

That pair, who struggled both tactically and in the wind yesterday, will need to produce if the hoped-for battle between the four favourites is indeed going to rage for the next three weeks and all the way to Paris.

After the disappointment of last year's race, when both Froome and Contador were forced to abandon, due to injury leaving Nibali to win by a seven-minute margin unseen since 1997, a close battle for the yellow jersey would be hugely welcome.

Indeed, for a sport still struggling to convince the wider public of its legitimacy after a series doping scandals, headlined by the stripping of Lance Armstrong's seven Tour titles, it could hardly be better timed.

Belfast Telegraph


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