Chris Froome is preparing for what could be one of the most decisive days of his Tour de France title defence.
While Stage 8 failed to shake-up the overall classification, the 32-year-old yellow jersey holder has predicted a different tale entirely for Sunday's vicious 181.5km run to Chambery. Stage 9 features seven climbs - three of them hors categorie - and steep, technical descents which will be just as pivotal to the end result.
"I'm expecting the general classification to get blown wide open tomorrow," Froome said. "Tomorrow is going to be a really, really decisive stage of this year's Tour."
Stage 8 ended up being an explosive and fast eighth stage over lumpy terrain. It finished ahead of schedule and is likely to take a toll on some riders tomorrow. Three-time champion Froome said he didn't expect today's stage to be as intense as it was, but credited his team for the way it controlled the race from the main bunch.
"That was a really tough day, especially with tomorrow in mind," Froome said. "The pressure was on. We had a lot of guys up front, who were a real threat.
"It was tactically quite an interesting stage. We went with a plan of putting Sergio [Henao] and Mikel Landa in the break seen as they are up there on GC, but at the same time ... it was a different one.
"Even though we had two guys in the break we couldn't really give them too much room, so it was a tough day in the end."
Froome did have one heart-in-mouth moment today when he and Geraint Thomas overshot a corner. While Froome quickly regained the road, Thomas hit a hay bale and had to work hard to catch up to the bunch.
Sky's tactical approach to tomorrow's stage remains a mystery, but it is likely to be 'all-in' given that just 39 seconds separate the top five on the general classification and Monday is a rest day.
Froome is no stranger to ripping up the rulebook, either. He defied typical, defensive team Sky tactics on stage eight of the Tour last year when he attacked over the Col de Peyresourde last year, screaming down a descent to claim the stage victory and take over race leadership. Tomorrow could easily lend itself to a similarly aggressive manoeuvre.