Team Sky’s Chris Froome, who a month today begins the defence of his Tour de France title in Düsseldorf, believes that Nairo Quintana may not be among his closest rivals in this year’s race, where he is seeking a fourth yellow jersey in five years.
Eurosport reports that Froome believes the Movistar rider, runner-up to Team Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin at the Giro d’Italia which finished on Sunday, may have taken on too much in targeting both the Italian and French Grand Tours.
He said: "My biggest threats come from guys who did not do the Giro – Richie Porte, Alberto Contador and Romain Bardet.
"I think it is going to be tough for Nairo to do the Giro and the Tour."
Quintana was second to Froome when the Briton won the Tour de France in 2013 and 2015, and last year finished third behind the Team Sky man, with AG2R's Bardet second.
The Colombian won one stage during the Giro and took the maglia rosa from Dumoulin in the closing days of the race, but his lead was not enough to prevent the Dutch rider from overhauling him on the closing day’s time trial.
But Froome suggested that Quintana may not gone all-out at the Giro, saying: "He may then be doing better on the Tour because he is a rider who is better in the second than the first Grand Tour."
Froome has not raced since the Tour de Romandie in April and most recently has been on a training camp on Tenerife, but will be back in action at the Criterium du Dauphiné, which starts on Sunday.
It was after the end of the final stage of that race in 2011 that the infamous Jiffy Bag was delivered to former Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman and containing medicine for Sir Bradley Wiggins.
The episode is being investigated both as part of a wider Parliamentary inquiry into doping in sports, and by UK Anti-Doping.
Froome, whose own performances at the Tour de France have been viewed with suspicion by some fans as well as media figures including former pro Laurent Jalabert, said: "It does not really affect much of us on the road.
"It is different for Bradley and others who are no longer on the team, but for us it's really not a big deal, none of us have been involved in this."
Speaking about his preparations for this year’s Tour de France, he said: "I think it has been a build-up similar to what I had last year.
“I think it worked well and I was able to do the Tour and the Vuelta."
Froome has three times been runner-up in the Spanish race, and while he could not confirm he would be riding it this year, he added: "After the Tour, if everything goes well, I'd love to do the Vuelta."
Joining him in France will be Geraint Thomas, who abandoned the Giro d’Italia halfway through due to injuries sustained on the crash caused by a parked police motorbike at the foot of the final climb on Stage 9.
"On the one hand, it was a huge setback for Geraint that he was not able to finish the Giro,” said Froome.
“But,” he added, “for the Tour, it will be only a good thing for the team because he will be fresher and have more time to prepare."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.