Chris Froome (Sky) revealed today in central Italy what it will take to win the Tour de France in four month's time: repetition and attention to the details.
With the formula, he won the Tour of Oman last month and the fourth stage of Tirreno-Adriatico today. The race ends in three days, when Froome, trailing by four seconds to Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), has a good chance to win the overall.
Both in Oman and in Italy, his advantage came from the team's control. Bradley Wiggins, Richie Porte and Dario Cataldo helped him in the Green Mountain stage and to the eventual overall win in Oman. Cataldo, and the team's two Colombians, Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Urán did their part today.
BMC Racing led to the base, but Sky took over for the 14.5km ride to the top of Prati di Tivo. Cataldo led on the early slopes and reduced the field to around 25 to 30 riders. Henao continued from about seven kilometres out. He sat a pace that wore down the rivals and prohibited attacks.
Contador tried twice, at 6.2km and at 2.7km out, but the Colombians had it under control. Nibali followed his second move, but Henao and Urán just kept following behind until it was Froome's turn. He attacked at one kilometre out, passed his rivals and won the stage.
Froome arrived in the press room with lipstick still on his cheek from the podium girl. It and the blowing heater inside the Bar Ristorante di Prati di Tivo helped to warm him. Outside, rain started to fall on the snow banks after what was mostly a sunny day.
He explained that control is what he needed to win.
"I think it's pretty simple, if we keep following a certain style of racing, it makes more controllable for us," Froome said in a press conference.
"The more you can control a race, the more you can control the outcome. Cycling is not predictable, but the more control you have over it, the easier it becomes."
Attention to the details
In Nice, Riche Porte is preparing to repeat Bradley Wiggins' win in Paris-Nice. The race ends tomorrow above his home in Monaco with a 9.6km time trial up the Col d'Èze.
Journalists wondered just how Sky keeps dominating stage races.
"I've been doing a lot of my training with Richie Porte in Monaco, but there's no secret. We just keep doing the training, measuring the training and going back and doing it again. There's no secret, just getting the basics right," Froome said.
"I wouldn't say that [the other teams get it wrong], they just have a different way of doing it, but maybe we are just more particular about it. I've not been in the other teams to know.
"The biggest thing, for example, is that we training camps at altitude together, there are not many other teams that do training camps like this at altitude: four weeks, two weeks at a time. It's not something that's easy to do with a group of 10 to 12 riders from different countries. That, however, is our work and we're doing it all the same. That's just an example of one of the things that we are doing that maybe other teams aren't doing so much."
Tirreno isn't over
Froome's chance at an overall win is not as probable as Porte's tomorrow. He faces two difficult days.
The leg to Chieti tomorrow and the circuit around Porto Sant'Elpidio on Monday present short steep climbs that form part of the Apennine Mountains. To have a chance at winning the overall, he will want to gain more time.
The race ends with a 9.2km time trial in San Benedetto del Tronto. Kwiatkowski won the junior world TT title in 2008 and the Three Days of West Flanders TT last year. He will be a tough competitor.
Even with Oman and possibility Tirreno-Adriatico in his palmarès, Froome knows the Tour de France will harder.
"This does help the confidence; it's a good position to be in," Froome said. "However, I'm fully aware the Tour's a long way away and that this is just the process leading to the Tour."
Chris Froome wins Tirreno-Adriatico stage four
Chris Froome: Rider profile
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