(AFP) – Chris Froome will have his work cut out dealing with the altitude when he tackles the Tour Colombia starting on Tuesday, his rivals and team-mate said.
“Having Froome will be interesting because, apart from the rivalry, we’ll see how these riders go at altitude, how they feel, what they think,” Nairo Quintana told Marca.
Altitude will be an important feature of the Tour de France with seven climbs rising above 2,000-meters including the Col de l’Iseran, the highest paved mountain in Europe at 2,770m.
While Quintana raced in last week’s Tour of San Juan in Argentina, where he finished eighth, Froome will be competing in his first race this season.
But with four of the six stages taking place over 2,000m, Tour Colombia is going to be good preparation for what the riders will face in France in five months time.
Froome’s team-mate Egan Bernal won the inaugural Tour Colombia last year, but he says his illustrious Team Sky leader won’t be taking a back seat in the Andes.
“He wants to ride the Tour Colombia well. At the time and during the race we’ll see who the leader is, if it’s him or me,” said Bernal.
Another rival, Rigoberto Uran, a former Froome team-mate at Sky can’t see the Kenyan-born rider winning in Colombia.
“It’s hard to see a foreigner winning the race,” said the 32-year-old Colombian. “The issue of altitude will undoubtedly weigh heavily.”
The race begins in Medellin on Tuesday with a 14km team time-trial.
There will then be four flat street-circuit stages, all in the Antioquia region before Sunday’s decisive finale, a 174km ride from El Retiro to the steep summit finish at Alto de Palmas.
“It’s a race that ends on a mountain and it will be spectacular,” said Quintana, the runner-up to Bernal last year.
Other top riders expected on the Colombia start line are local sprinter Fernando Gaviria and Miguel Angel Lopez, as well as Julian Alaphilippe.