Stage four of the Tour of the Alps saw another aggressive day of racing with constant attacks and acceleration, just the sort of racing that Chris Froome says he loves and is looking forward to at the Giro d'Italia.
While Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) took victory on the stage, Team Sky matched the aggression of the likes of Astana and UAE Team Emirates, first putting David de la Cruz in the break, then sending Sebastian Henao up the road to follow an attack by George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo), and then having Kenny Elissonde set up Chris Froome for attacks both on the way up the final climb and on the descent off of it.
Team Sky sports director Nicolas Portal said earlier in the race that the team was using the Tour of the Alps as tactical as well as physical preparation for the Giro d'Italia, and team leader Chris Froome certainly seems to be enjoying this style of racing.
"This is great. It feels like I'm going back a few years," Froome said after warming down following the penultimate stage of the race into the Austrian city of Lienz.
"There are very short and sharp stages here, so that leads to very aggressive racing and the GC is still very tight. There’s less than 20 seconds between the top four and that’s always going to make it very aggressive.
"It’s been good racing, it’s just perfect for a lot of us in terms of that last bit of intensity before heading to the Giro in a couple of weeks time. You can’t train like this, that’s for sure, so this is really valuable preparation. I think it’s a taste of what we’ll see in the Giro."
Watch: Giro d'Italia 2018 route guide
Froome currently sits fourth in GC, 16 seconds behind race leader Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) who stood firm in the face of attacks from Froome, Fabio Aru (UAE Team Emirates), and Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana) on a stage which featured two short, sharp climbs close to the finish.
In the end Sanchez was able to jump away to take Astana's third win in four stages, but Froome is less concerned with results in this race and more with getting his final preparation for the Giro. And of course, it also gives the 32-year-old a taste of where his Giro rivals will be with just a few weeks to the start in Jerusalem.
"Obviously you can read a little bit into where people are at at the moment. Thibaut seems to be in great shape, Aru’s on the way up, Pozzovivo is right there, and Astana have got a really strong team."
The Tour of the Alps finishes with a 164.2km stage from Rattenberg to Innsbruck, using many of the roads that will feature in the World Championships in the autumn. However with the Giro/Tour double on the agenda, Froome is understandably taking things one step at a time and will not be using Friday's stage as a recon for the Worlds which are still more than five months away.
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