Chris Froome (Team Sky) walks through the Tour de France headquarters in Düsseldorf, Germany, ready to start a fourth title bid Saturday even if his rivals "potentially" see him a bit weaker than in the previous years.
Froome, for the first time since becoming a Grand Tour challenger, comes into the Tour de France winless so far in the calendar year.
"Potentially," he said when asked if his rivals see him as a weaker Chris Froome.
>>> Tour de France 2017: Who are the bookmakers backing for victory?
"If the Dauphiné is anything to go by, Riche Porte is going to be the man to beat.
"Having a victory coming in the Tour de France is always great to have for the morale and confidence, but I can take confidence from having three Tours already."
Watch: Chris Froome on the 2017 Tour de France
Froome wore a white top, the same colour that Sky will wear instead of their usual black jerseys when starting the race Saturday along the Rhine River.
Rumours were that Froome may have lost his hunger for the Tour de France. After winning three, maybe he was content and training a bit less. One journalist said that some saw him going to the beach in Tenerife, something he may have never done during past training blocks.
"I would've loved to have been down at the beach. That maybe was misinformed," continued Froome.
"The hunger hasn't got any less. I'm more focused than ever. I have so much to race for now. A fourth tour title, that's what I'm after. It's massive. I feel the level of my rivals is even higher this year, and on a difficult course as well."
In the Tour's history books, three others have won three titles. Another group of four with Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Jacques Anquetil went on to win five.
Could Froome be one of those that stops at three and never makes the step beyond? Eyebrows rose when Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) rode a faster time trial in the Critérium du Dauphiné earlier in June. It could be part of Sky’s plan that includes Froome finally winning the Vuelta a España later this summer.
"I feel as if I'm where need to be. The Dauphiné was what I needed to get that extra bit of rhythm. I've been very light on race days, I like to think that means I'm coming in fresher than before. If numbers and feelings are anything to go by, I think I'm going to be ready for the next weeks,” added Froome.
"I felt in the past that in the third week that that's when it gets tough to hang on. We took a similar approach last year with the Olympics and I came close, with the Tour and then the Vuelta and the Olympics in the middle. It's that same sort of thinking."
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