• Chris Froome has a small dig at the Towards Zero Race Melbourne. (Getty)Source: Getty
Three-time Tour de France Chris Froome delighted fans with an attack near the end of Race Melbourne, his first event of the season.
By
Cycling Central

Source:
AAP
27 Jan 2017 - 9:11 AM  UPDATED 27 Jan 2017 - 9:32 AM

Before the three-time Tour de France champion opened his season with the 116.6km Race Melbourne, he rode from Geelong to Melbourne in the morning.

He was attending the Australian Open tennis on Thursday night, so did not have to worry about the ride back.

It is the sort of January schedule that Froome knows will pay big dividends in July, when he tries to win the Tour for the third-straight year.

"It was a big day, 130km to get here and then the race ... it was a good day," he said.

Wild and Bennett win inaugural Towards Zero Race Melbourne
Kirsten Wild and Sam Bennett proved the best of the sprinters at the 116.6km Towards Zero Race Melbourne criterium.

Froome also delighted fans when he and two other riders went on the attack near the finish.

"It blew the cobwebs away," the Team Sky leader said of Race Melbourne.

"It had been a pretty rapid race all day, 48 (km/hr) average, and when it came together with a couple of laps to go, I thought I'd have a dig.

"I definitely wasn't going to be in the sprint there.

"I was quite happy with that, it was nice to have a little bit of speed in the legs."

Froome will now compete in Sunday's Cadel Evans Great Ocean Rd race before defending his Jayco Herald Sun Tour title next month.

"I can’t wait to return to the Herald Sun Tour,” Froome said. “It was a great way for me to start my season in 2016 and I was keen to ride it again this year after completing my training block in Australia.

“I’d love to retain my title, but I know it will be very tough. It's very early in my season and there’s some really stiff competition. Plus, just like last year, the course looks challenging.”

He will be supported by Kenny Ellisonde, Sebastian Henao, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard and Danny van Poppel. Sky will be a man down for the four-day Tour after Owain Doull was ruled out due to appendix surgery.

Jayco Herald Sun Tour heads to the mountains
Australia’s oldest stage race received a facelift for its 2017 route, with more hills and mountains on the menu as the local riders take on the likes of Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Esteban Chaves (Orica-BikeExchange).