Tour de France 2017: Luke Rowe backs Chris Froome for fourth success

Chris Froome and Luke Rowe
Chris Froome links arms with Luke Rowe as Froome wins the 2015 Tour de France
Tour de France: 1-23 July
Coverage: Live text commentary of every stage on the BBC Sport website. BBC Radio coverage on 5 live sports extra and/or website from 14:30 BST on every stage.

Team Sky road captain Luke Rowe believes Chris Froome will be celebrating a fourth Tour de France crown in Paris.

With six stages remaining, Froome holds an 18 seconds lead over Italian rider Fabio Aru.

There are six stages remaining ahead of the finale in France's capital on Sunday, 23 July.

"Froomey is the strongest guy in the race and my gut instinct is he will win the race to Paris," said Rowe.

Froome recovered from a puncture to defend his slender lead from on stage 15 and retain the yellow jersey although admitted afterwards he thought it was "game over".

Welshman Rowe believes the penultimate time trial on Saturday, 22 July could prove pivotal with Froome considered to be more of a specialist in this discipline than his general classification contenders.

Frenchman Romain Bardet is third, 23 seconds behind, while fourth-placed Colombia rider Rigoberto Uran trails Froome by 29 seconds.

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I thought it was game over - Froome

When the Tour resumes after Monday's rest day on Tuesday Rowe believes Team Sky will come under pressure as the tour reaches a climax

""e can't switch off for the next four days for one kilometre," said Froome.

"Teams are going to get more desperate the closer we get to Paris and will try to put us under pressure."

More options

Team Sky also have a second leadership option in the emergence of Mikel Landa who is in sixth place overall and just over a minute down on Froome.

"To have that card to play to put teams under pressure with someone other than Froomey as a GC contender is a great position to be in," said Rowe.

Landa's progress has compensated for the loss of Geraint Thomas who crashed out on stage nine, breaking his collarbone when in second place overall behind Froome.

"I was personally gutted for him," said Rowe.

"He suffered a big blow when he pulled out of the Giro d'Italia.

"To pick yourself back up after that and get yourself to supreme form only to crash again was pretty hard for him and a lot to take on board mentally."

Pain game

Rowe has also not escaped accidents having been involved in a five-bike crash on the second stage which resulted in the Cardiff cyclist suffering a broken rib.

"I took a beating there where I whacked my head pretty hard and broke a rib," said Rowe.

"For the first week to 10 days I was struggling a bit and not my usual self.

"But in the second week and up to this point I am feeling good and each day it is getting better."

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