Froome off the pace in Herald Sun Tour prologue as Van Poppel wins

Dutch race leader to turn workhorse for defending champion on road to Falls Creek

Chris Froome's 26th place in the 2.1km Herald Sun Tour prologue, seven seconds behind his teammate Danny Van Poppel, wasn't the best showing against the clock from the Olympic Games time trial bronze medallist. However, the defending Tour de France champion is better placed on general classification than the majority of his rivals for the general classification and looks forward to what the remainder of the race holds.

"It's a great start for the team, with Danny winning - that's giving us a lot of confidence going into the week ahead,” he said of his teammate’s win to open Sky’s account for 2017. "He did a great ride."

Luke Rowe and Sebastian Henao were squeezed in between Van Poppel and Froome on the results sheet for Team Sky but the 31-year-old can take solace in the fact that while the fast course was not suited to his characteristics he goes into the Queen stage up Falls Creek well placed in the fight for yellow.

Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott) was four seconds slower in the prologue with Janier Acevedo six seconds in arrears, while a handful of challengers are similarly behind ahead of the important climbing test that also offers a 10-second time bonus for the stage winner.

"It's definitely a bit of a lung buster - you just have two minutes to get everything out," Froome said of the effort which was quicker than his 2016 result on the same course. "It's not really my kind of course, but it's great to kick the week off."

Having come close at the Tour Down Under and Cadel Evans Australia Day criterium, Van Poppel made it two wins in a row for Sky at the race, following on from Froome's final day in 2016 on his way to the overall title.

Van Poppel has form in prologues, with the 23-year-old winning the 2014 opener at the Tour of Luxembourg and explained post-race that he was only focused on winning and taking the jersey in the knowledge that, come stage 1, he was always going to be on domestique duty.

"I know that I am fast in the prologue so I was focused on winning it and nothing else. I am really happy because you are always searching for your first victory for the team and yourself, and I am happy I did it," Van Poppel said of the victory.

With the race headed into the Victorian Alps and the 29km climb up Falls Creek, Van Poppel has no delusions what his role will be, with Sky focused on setting up Froome for the stage win and commanding position on general classification.

"I hope I can give it tomorrow to Chris. Tomorrow is a nice day for Chris and the team, so we go full for him," he said. "I will be one of the first guys who will work for Chris, which is maybe a little bit strange with the yellow jersey but we have some really good climbers here, some smaller guys, who will stay with him."

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