Sky’s Chris Froome is the man to beat in the Tour de Romandie this week, according to fellow Brit Simon Yates.
Orica-GreenEdge’s Yates has been watching ‘Froomey’ closely and gave the nod to his rival to take his third straight title.
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Froome lines up in the six-day stage race in Switzerland, which starts tomorrow, having taken the winner’s jersey in the 2013 and 2014 editions. Besides Orica’s Yates and Swiss Michael Albasini, he will face Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and 2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
“It’s a stacked line up in the Tour de Romandie,” Yates told Cycling Weekly.
“The man to beat? Froomey’s there, he’s won it for the last two years. I’m sure he’ll be up for it. I don’t know how his injuries are after Flèche Wallonne.
“Every day is selective, you might be able to see straight away who has it or not. It’ll be a tough race, and even tougher and full-gas with the bad weather. That plays a big part in how the races go.”
Froome crashed with a dozen riders 12 kilometres to race in the Flèche Wallonne on Wednesday in Belgium. He climbed back on his bike and finished the race with cuts and scrapes down his left side. Insiders explained that Froome escaped with only road rash.
Yates, 22, joined the top ranks in 2014 with Orica after winning two stages in the Tour de l’Avenir and a stage, and placing third overall in the Tour of Britain in 2013.
After a fifth place overall in the Tour of the Basque Country, he raced alongside Froome in Flèche Wallonne and for the first time, lined up in Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday.
A crash at 41.3 kilometres remaining in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, which took out team-mate and defending champion Simon Gerrans, held up Yates and saw him waste energy. He placed 39th behind winner Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
“I had to chase full-gas all the way to the top of Le Redoute,” Yates said.
“It’s not the type of race where you can make those stupid efforts and not pay for it in the end.”
Romandie will be another debut and another opportunity for him to learn.
“I’d like to try to have a good overall. The team also has Albasini, who won three stages last year,” added Yates.
“Hopefully in the future I can turn into one of these real GC guys. Watching and looking at what Froome does, that’s important just to see. This guy won the Tour de France, he’s been up there in the Vuelta a España, it’s really important to learn at these sort of things.
“The same in Liège. It comes back to learning, getting that experience of being with the top guys. I already feel that I’m there in the front group.
“I’m watching guys like Valverde, you can see it, he just cruises and saves his energy. The more you look at those races, the better it can be in the future for me.”