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Froome heading to Australia for upcoming Herald Sun Tour

ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Sky superstar Chris Froome is heading to the tranquility of laid-back Australia to open what will be a hectic 2016 season for the two-time Tour de France champion.

With Froome taking aim at a third yellow jersey and a gold medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, Australia seemed far away from the European hub-bub and an ideal way to kick start his ambitious campaign.

Froome is scheduled to arrive Monday evening in Adelaide, the host city of the Santos Tour Down Under, a day after the race concludes to train and prepare for his season debut at the Herald Sun Tour scheduled for February 3-7.

“He wanted to start later, and then we thought maybe throw in a smaller stage race,” Sky sport director Kurt-Asle Arvesen said. “And he chose the Sun Tour.”

Froome’s decision to race the rival Herald Sun Tour, held in the state of Victoria, raised eyebrows in Adelaide. Many wondered why the Tour winner chose the lower-rung Sun Tour instead of the WorldTour-opener.

Froome simply wanted to have a lower-profile race to open what will be a high-pressure 2016 season.

“He wanted to break up his training a little bit, and do a race without pressure,” Arvesen said. “He will train here, and then he goes to the Sun Tour.”

In Adelaide, Froome will link up with Sky’s top coach Tim Kerrison and will train with Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard, and Salvatore Puccio, all three who started the Tour Down Under.

Froome is easing into the 2016 campaign after a busy off-season that included the birth of his first child as well as recovery from a foot injury that knocked him out of the Vuelta a España in September.

After his Australian stint, things will ramp up. Froome will have a busy racing schedule, with Ruta del Sol, Paris-Nice, Volta a Catalunya, and the Tour de Romandie all in his first block of racing. Training camps will be incorporated into his schedule ahead of the Tour, with a likely return to the Critérium du Dauphiné in June.