Froome says GC battle will commence from day one

Fri Jul 3, 2015 2:26pm EDT
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By Martyn Herman

UTRECHT, Netherlands (Reuters) - Chris Froome reckons there will be no phoney war when the Tour de France begins with a 14km individual time trial through the streets of the picturesque Dutch city Utrecht on Saturday.

The pancake flat loop will see the 198 riders put the hammer down in temperatures expected to reach 36 degrees Celsius and significant time advantages are up for grabs, according to the British rider who won the Tour in 2013 but abandoned last year after several crashes in the early stages.

"Tomorrow's prologue time trial is definitely the start of the GC (general classification) battle," 30-year-old all rounder Froome, one of the main favorites along with Spain's Alberto Contador, Italian Vincenzo Nibali and Colombia's Nairo Quintana.

"Even though it's short at just under 14km there can be time gaps and I believe there can be time gaps of 20 seconds between some of the main GC contenders."

While nothing will be won or lost in Utrecht, a poor ride or getting unlucky with some of the predicted thunderstorms could put some of the main contenders under early pressure.

With cobbled sections and uphill finishes to cope with in the first week or so, months of preparation could be ruined.

Add in a larger than usual pool of riders with GC potential and it is no wonder that Froome believes the 102nd Tour could be one of the "most contested" in recent years.

"The race is open, it's not just a two-horse race," he said. "It's a race where when we get to the mountains you can't just watch one guy, there is maybe a list of eight guys who if they go you have to react.   Continued...

Team Sky rider Chris Froome of Britain looks on during the opening ceremony of the Tour de France cycling race in Utrecht, Netherlands, July 2, 2015. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard