Chris Froome (Team Sky) again went on the offensive at the Tour of the Alps, testing his rivals with different attacks as he looks for a stage victory, fights for the overall classification and polishes his form for the rapidly approaching Giro d'Italia.
Froome missed Fabio Aru's attack on the Banneberg climb 15km from the finish in Lienz but Team Sky domestique Kenny Elissonde again stepped up to help to close down the move. Froome then made two attacks that split the front group of overall contenders and went again on the valley road towards the finish. Froome used his aggression on the descent to line-up a slingshot move and tried to time trial away from his rivals.
The elastic almost snapped as he opened a gap but eventual stage winner Luis Leon Sanchez (Astana) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida) manage to pull him back, with Aru forced to lead the chasers up to the trio.
Froome eventually finished tenth with the other overall contenders but was smiling as he reached the Team Sky bus after another day of champagne cycling.
"This is great. It feels like going back a few years," Froome said with a smile.
"It's very short, sharp stages here, so it does lead to very aggressive racing. The GC is very right too; I think there are less than 20 seconds between the top four or five on GC. That makes it aggressive."
Team Sky are firm believers in structured training at altitude but Froome admitted there is nothing better than hard racing to get ready for what is likely to be a very aggressive Giro d'Italia.
"You can't train like this, that's for sure. This is really valuable training," he said suddenly coming across as a physiological luddite.
"It's been good racing, it's perfect for us in terms of that last bit of intensity before heading to the Giro d'Italia in a couple of weeks time."
Froome is ready for similar racing at the Corsa Rosa, hinting he could also be aggressive as he tries to end Team Sky's run of failure in the Italian Grand Tour.
"It's a bit early now to say exactly what our tactics will be. There will be a few other names who will come into play, once we hit the Giro. We'll have to see how things pan out in the first few days and take it from there," he said.
"But I think it's a taste of what we'll see at the Giro. You can read a little bit into how people are going at the moment. Thibaut Pinot seems to be in great shape, Aru is on the way up, Pozzovivo is right there and Astana have a really strong team. I think it's a taste of what's to come," he said.
Froome had apparently considered riding part of the way to Team Sky's hotel in Kitzbuhel to extend his day's mileage in view of the Giro d'Italia. However, he opted to warm down post stage on the trainer, travel by bus and save everything for Friday's final stage to Innsbruck.
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