Team Sky's Chris Froome and Richie Porte downplayed their chances for results this week at the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado during the pre-race press conference Sunday in Aspen. The 2013 Tour de France winner and his faithful lieutenant each said they had taken several weeks off following the French Grand Tour and would be working for their teammates during the race.
"Richie and myself have had a little bit of a break since the Tour," Froome said. "So we're probably not going as well as we were during the Tour. But either way, we're going to be here to do what we can and to help out the rest of our teammates. It's quite an important race for us. We've got some new partners with the team in the US now with 21st Century Fox. So it's important for us to bring quite a strong team here."
Among the teammates Froome and Porte will be supporting are 22-year-old Americans Joe Dombrowski and Ian Boswell, along with veteran rider Danny Pate, 34. Porte echoed Froome's sentiments about bringing a strong team to provide opportunities for their American teammates.
"We do have a good strong team here, so it's going to be nice to see the young American guys, Joe Dombrowski and Ian Boswell, and the other young American, Danny Pate, have some opportunities," said the 28-year-old from Tasmania.
Dombrowski went into the final stage here last year in fourth place but dropped to 10th overall following the pancake flat final time trial in Denver. The neo-pro would obviously like to improve on that result this year with Team Sky, and his more accomplished teammates appeared eager to help him do it.
"We're interested to see what he can do given the opportunity this year," Froome said.
The biggest challenge of the week will be the altitude that riders face on the multiple mountain passes they'll traverse, Froome said. Independence Pass tops out at 3,686 meters, while most of the early stages take place above 2,200 meters.
"The first thing that everyone notices straightaway is the altitude," Froome said. "We've been out here three or four days now, and each day you feel better and better progressively. But still, as soon as you do any kind of interval effort, it's still really difficult to come back from and recover from. I think that just adds a whole new dimension onto the race. It limits the efforts you can make. So that's something very new. I've never done a race at altitude before."
Froome is originally from Nairobi, which sits at about 2,000 meters, but he said his home country's elevation is nothing compared with Colorado.
"It's a similar feeling to going back up to Nairobi, but that's only 2000 metres," he said. "So this is taking it to another level."
The Tour de France champion also said a one-week race lends itself to more aggressive riding than in a Grand Tour, and he expects to see a lot of action early on.
"Obviously, with a week-long race, it does open it up to be more aggressive and more open to attacks each day," Froome said. "But let's see how the race goes. I think there are a lot of people here who are up for it."
But Porte indicated his form at the moment means he may not be one of the people his teammate said are "up for" this week's race.
"In my current shape I'm not really looking forward to the climbs too much," Porte said. "It's gonna be nice to struggle over Independence Pass at the back of the peloton."