Chris Froome may not have finished higher than seventh in any event this year, but that doesn’t mean that the four-time Tour de France winner is low on confidence ahead of his final warm-up race before the Giro d’Italia.
The 32-year-old has endured a difficult start to the season as he approached the Giro d’Italia with the ongoing salbutamol case hanging over him, finishing 10th in the Ruta del Sol and a distant 34th at Tirreno-Adriatico.
Froome will take to the start line of the Tour of the Alps in Arco on Monday at the head of a strong Team Sky line-up, but says that managing to win the Tour de France last year having not won a race in the six months beforehand has given him confidence to trust his form whatever the race results may say.
“I’m confident that I’m where I need to be at the moment, like I was last year with the goals of the Tour and the Vuelta,” Froome said on Sunday.
“Winning big before events always gives you confidence and it’s great for morale, but it’s not a prerequisite, it’s not the be all and end all.
“I’m not here to send signals or anything like that. I’d be really happy if I could see a progression from when I last raced in Tirreno-Adriatico. That would make me very happy.”
Watch: Giro d’Italia route guide 2018
The five stages of the Tour of the Alps present the toughest parcours of any stage race in 2018 to date, with five days of racing packing in more than 13,000m of climbing.
Stage two on Tuesday is the race’s only bona fide summit finish (although stage one’s finish is just six kilometres from the top of a second-category climb), but there are big climbs on every stage including a final stage that features three ascents of the 7.9km climb that will feature prominently in the 2018 Road World Championships.
With these difficulties in mind, Froome says that he is expect a difficult week of racing, and that the race will not only be a test for his own form but could also give an indication of the riders that Team Sky could select to support him at the Giro d’Italia in May.
However he also hopes that he will be able to avoid the fates of team-mates Richie Porte, Mikel Landa, and Geraint Thomas who won this race in 2015, 2016, and 2017 respectively before falling short at the Giro.
“I’m really looking forward to the week ahead,” Froome continued. “Quite a few riders have come back from a good block of training at altitude, so it will be interesting to see where my rivals are in terms of their condition. It’s also a great race for the team and for us to narrow down the selection of the squad for the Giro d’Italia.
“Given the region where this race is being held it’s extremely tough parcours, we’ve got a lot of climbing everyday. Even though the stages are quite short it’s still a very difficult challenge.
“It’s been amazing for the team to win this race for the last three years, even if my team-mates have gone on to the Giro and things haven’t gone quite as well. But hopefully there’s no connection there between winning Tour of the Alps and bad luck at the Giro.”
The Tour of the Alps runs from Arco in Italy to Innsbruck in Austria over five days between April 16 and April 20.