The last time Chris Froome visited the Victorian Alps was back in 2008 when he made his Herald Sun Tour debut with Barloworld, impressing on the climb up Mount Buller where he finished second. In 2017, the race heads to nearby Falls Creek for the 29km climbing test where Froome is hoping form and condition trumps experience.
"I have only been up Mt Buller before. I know it is in the area, a similar kind of climb so I sort of know what to expect but I have never done falls creek before," Froome told assembled media on the stage 1 start line having finished 26th in the Wednesday evening prologue. "I have been told it is going to be very selective. First real big mountain top finish of the season for me this year so it will be good to test the legs and see just where the form is at."
While the stage is billed as a showdown between WorldTour teams Team Sky and Orica-Scott with their Colombian climber Esteban Chaves, Froome wouldn't be drawn into narrowing down the race to a 'mano o mano'.
"We are definitely going to have our work cur out for us today. I think a lot of the local guys I don't necessarily know so it makes it quite hard tactically to know who to follow," he said of his potential and unknown rivals. "I will have my hands full obviously looking after Esteban Chaves and looking out for him but at the same time I can't write off the local guys either.
"I think knowing the climbs is certainly an advantage and I am on the back foot there. Hopefully it is going to be about the legs.
With the likes of Richie Porte (BMC) at the Tour Down Under and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) at Vuelta a San Juan sending and early message to their rivals that they mean business from the get go, Froome isn't convinced a stage race in February will either make or break his season as he explained.
Not necessarily, I only really need to be show that I am in form in the last month building up to the Tour so it is not necessarily all on the line in February at this point," he said in reference to Porte and Mollema's wins. "It is always nice to be ahead, it is always nice to be in a good position so of course I want to do well today."
However, Froome has won the first stage race of his season since 2013 and isn't looking to end that trend anytime soon. Although with Sebastian Henao and Kenny Elissonde for company on the climbs, Froome hinted that perhaps Sky will play another card in the bid for overall success.
"I would love to but I realise that each year it gets harder and harder to do. I also have a really strong team here and I wouldn't write off one of them being off there today."
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