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Froome seeks third straight Tour de Romandie title

LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AFP) — Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana will be looking to prevent Chris Froome from making it three wins in a row at the Tour de Romandie in Switzerland, which begins Tuesday.

Sky’s Froome, who won the last two years after his teammate Bradley Wiggins won in 2012, is hoping a victory in the six-stage race will set him up for a crack at the Tour de France. Froome won the 2013 Tour de France.

Nibali (Astana), the reigning Tour de France champion, appears as a dangerous threat to Froome, who must shake off the effects of a crash late in last week’s La Fleche-Wallonne in Belgium in time for the opening 19.2-kilometer team time trial.

Nibali is wary of the threat posed by Quintana (Movistar) and Froome.

“Quintana raced the Ardennes classics in support of [Alejandro] Valverde, but he’s here in Romandie with a fresh team and we know he can be a protagonist in the mountains,” Nibali said.

“Froome had some bad luck at Fleche Wallonne with the crashes, so his strength may not be among the top this week — but you know he is a great champion who has won here before, so let’s not say he won’t be any less than last year.”

Sky and the other competing teams will see stage 1 as something of a rehearsal for the ninth stage of this year’s Tour de France, a 28km team time trial in Brittany on July 12.

The decisive stage in the Tour de Romandie, and one which could suit Nibali or Quintana, could come on Saturday, when the ride of more than 160km from Fribourg to Champex-Lac features three climbs and a mountaintop finish.

Tour de Romandie, April 28-May 3

Stage 1: Valle de Joux to Juraparc, 19.2km TTT
Stage 2: Apples to Morges, 168.1km
Stage 3: Moutier to Porrentruy, 172.5km
Stage 4: La Neuveville to Fribourg, 169.8km
Stage 5: Fribourg to Champex-Lac, 162.7km
Stage 6: Lausanne, 17.3km TT

Leading riders

Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale), Thibaut Pinot (FDJ), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Tony Martin (Etixx-Quick-Step), Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx), Rui Costa (Lampre-Merida), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin), Chris Froome (Sky), Geraint Thomas (Sky).