Three-time champion Froome was joined by Christian Knees, Michal Kwiatkowski, and Peter Kennaugh to take on the first-category Col du Vars, which tops out 50km from the finish line, followed by the brutal 14km final ascent of the Col d'Izoard. The stage, which has also been chosen for the sportive ride, L'Etape du Tour, is set to be crucial in the outcome of the 2017 Tour, as one of only three summit finishes and one of only two Alpine stages late into the race.
"Everyone doing L'Etape du Tour this year is in for a treat. Stunning scenery," wrote Froome on Twitter.
Froome also went to the Pyrenees a couple of months ago to recon stage 12 from Pau to Peyragudes, while he got a good feel for stage 9 last week as the Dauphiné took riders up and down the Mont du Chat in a replica finale.
Knees and Kwiatkowski have been dead certs for selection for Sky's nine-man Tour squad for some time, while Kennaugh's presence on the trip suggest the Manxman's recent victory on Alpe d'Huez at the Critérium du Dauphiné has convinced team management that he should also be included.
Caruso loses jersey but stays in hunt at Tour de Suisse
Damiano Caruso (BMC) conceded the yellow jersey to Domenico Pozzovivo (AG2R La Mondiale) on stage 6 of the Tour de Suisse, but he is locked on the same time as his fellow Italian and remains in the hunt for final overall victory.
Caruso impressed by responding in person to a series of attacks as the yellow jersey group was whittled down to its bare bones on the climb of the mighty Albulapass, but Pozzovivo eventually forged clear near the summit, catching and passing Michael Woods (Cannondale-Drapac) on the descent to win in La Punt.
"I am really happy with my teammates. The guys did an amazing job. They worked hard all day then, on the last climb, when many riders tried to attack me, I was able to follow every move," Caruso said. "Just Domenico Pozzovivo was able to go alone on the last descent. It was really wet and dangerous and I tried to stick with the rest of the GC guys whilst also not taking too many risks."
After a rain-soaked descent, Caruso placed 7th on the stage, 15 seconds down on Pozzovivo, who also claimed a ten-second bonus as stage winner. After the commissaires consulted the results from the opening time trial, Caruso found himself in second place on GC, one hundredth of a second behind Pozzovivo.
"I lost the jersey but it's by less than one second so it's okay. The race isn't finished yet and it is still really open," Caruso said. "I was feeling really good so I wanted to try and make a move on the final climb. Sometimes the best form of defence is to attack.”
The Tour de Suisse continues with a tough summit finish at the Tiefenbach Glacier on Friday. "We might have lost the jersey but it's not disastrous,” said BMC directeur sportif Jackson Stewart. "There's almost nothing separating the two guys and now we don't have the responsibility to control."
Groenewegen looks to Tour de France after Ster ZLM Toer win
Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) scored a confidence-boosting victory ahead of the Tour de France when he landed stage 2 of the Ster ZLM Toer in Hoogerheide on Thursday. The Dutch champion proved quickest in a bunch sprint, seeing off the challenges of Max Walscheid (Sunweb) and Moreno Hofland (Lotto Soudal).
Groenewegen's LottoNL-Jumbo team was prominent on the stage, at one point splitting the peloton into echelons. After the bunch reformed, the team proceeded to pilot him to stage victory. LottoNL-Jumbo's Primoz Roglic remains the overall leader.
"I lost the train for a bit, but they waited for me and dropped me off perfectly," Groenewegen said. "Winning is always nice, and today, we knew we were in good form. We got another victory, which propels me towards the Tour de France. At a given moment, a group of 14 men, with six of our riders, had a gap on the rest. I think we rode a strong race. We controlled from the start to the finish."
It was Groenewegen's fourth victory of the season. He had opened his account with a win at the Tour de Yorkshire in April, and then added two wins at the Tour of Norway last month. He will hope to carry this form to his second Tour de France next month. On his Grande Boucle debut a year ago, his best result was fourth place in a bunch finish in Limoges on stage 4.
"Since last year's Tour de France, I have become stronger," Groenewegen said. "I feel it and the data from the sprint training shows that as well. Of course, I was a year younger last year. Only the best sprinters are in the Tour de France. But they are also competing here, and today we defeated them."
Podcast - transfer market special
Cycling's transfer window officially opens on August 1, but the market never sleeps, and with the Tour de France drawing closer, discussions between agents, riders and teams have been gathering pace.
Fresh from the Critérium du Dauphiné, where there was transfer talk aplenty, the Cyclingnews team runs down a list of potential moves, from Mikel Landa to Movistar, to the host of big name riders at BMC Racing and Quick-Step Floors who are all out of contract.
We hear from rider agent Martijn Berkhout from Sports Entertainment Group (SEG) on the main influences in this year's market, and also from Trek-Segafredo and Katusha Alpecin managers, Luca Guercilena and José Azevedo, on how they are assembling teams for next year.
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