Rowe primed to help Froome's Dauphine defence

After two weeks of what he and his teammates dubbed the 'Tour de Tenerife', Luke Rowe is ready to line up at the Criterium du Dauphine and the Tour de France as part of Chris Froome's Team Sky squad.

Rowe has been part of Team Sky for the last two editions of the Criterium du Dauphine and the Tour de France, playing a pivotal role in Froome's success in both races in 2015 and 2016.

Froome has taken a more gradual approach to racing in 2017 as he targets the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana double. Although Froome has yet to win in 2017, Rowe believes that the Kenyan-born Briton and Team Sky are ready to defend their Dauphine crown.

"You see him go through the process year-after-year before the Tour. It's copy and paste, but also he's learning from the previous years by making a few little tweaks. Chris knows when he needs to come good," Rowe told Cyclingnews before linking up with his teammates ahead of Sunday's first stage.

"He aims to be around 95 per cent and we're aiming to go to the Dauphine and win. That's no secret and we've had success there in previous years. Hopefully, we can do that with Froome, and he seems ready for it."

Rowe, Froome and a number of the Team Sky collective, recently spent time in Tenerife – the once again in-vogue training hotspot for riders preparing for the summer of French racing.

Those two weeks at altitude allowed Rowe to work on his climbing after he ended his Classics and spring campaign at the Tour de Yorkshire in late April. The first block of the season saw mixed results for Rowe, who finished high up in both Opening Weekend races in Belgium but then witnessed his main spring aims fade away after a high-speed crash at the Tour of Flanders involving Sep Vanmarcke.

Tenerife, however, has allowed the talented Welshman to recalibrate before a hectic block of racing that could, in theory, carry him through the Tour de France and into the Vuelta.

"We've done the usual year-on-year build up as a number of teams do with two weeks in Tenerife," he told Cyclingnews.

"I think I saw five teams up there with [Alberto] Contador a few other big GC guys. Our guys seem to be in a good place and I'm just looking forward to getting this phase of the season rolling.

"It's not my favourite destination but it's a means to an end for me. I'm a natural racer, and that's what I enjoy but the training up there needs to be done. I put in some hard work and climbing with those top climbers, day in, day out, brings you up another level."

The hard work before the mountain stages

The Dauphine begins on Sunday with a tricky stage starting and finishing in Saint Etienne. The parcours is littered with enough climbs to suggest that a hectic and nervous battle is likely to take place as a number of high-profile Grand Tour contenders look to stay in contention before the individual time trial and the true mountains arrive later in the week. Rowe's responsibilities will be to work alongside Ian Stannard and protect Froome - a task that the pair has excelled at in recent years in the Dauphine and then the Tour.

"I've established what I can and can't do at that level. What I can do is help out and support the guys on the flatter stages and then go into the medium mountains. When the racing goes into the big climbs, like it will on the final two days of the Dauphine, then I'll be a bit out of my depth. For me personally, it's the same role I've had at the Dauphine and the Tour for the last few years. If need be, I'll do the kilometres on the front and slot into that role.”

“Stages like the first one at the Dauphine, they can be the hardest days sometimes. Stages like that can be so unpredictable, but I still think it's going to be a big group at the finish. We've seen races lately that can split on climbs and on descents so it's going to be a nervous day and we'll have to be on our toes.”

Should Rowe successfully stick to the script at the Dauphine, he should be guaranteed a spot in Team Sky's super competitive Tour squad. Froome will bring with him the usual blend of climbers and rouleurs from the Dauphine and Tour de Suisse, while two spots are expected to go to Geraint Thomas and Mikel Landa.

"In a team like Team Sky, until the Dauphine is done it's not a guaranteed spot for myself. That being said I'm pretty confident in what I can do in a Tour squad. With a team like Sky, there's so much strength in depth and so many riders who can tick the boxes. You're not in until you're in."

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