Chris Froome sounded a warning to his Tour de France rivals on the race's first rest day, claiming he expects to get stronger over the next fortnight.
Tour de France leader Chris Froome sounded a warning to his yellow jersey rivals on the race's first rest day, claiming he expects to get stronger over the next fortnight.
Team Sky's Froome leads Le Tour's general classification (GC) by 12 seconds from Tejay van Garderen (BMC) ahead of Tuesday's stage 10 - the first day of proper mountain racing, as the peloton moves into the Pyrenees.
With Froome claiming "the real race for yellow" is about to begin, the 2013 GC champion insisted he has room for improvement.
"I'm in a different position to two years ago. In 2013 I came into the race, I had won pretty much every race beforehand, and I did feel once I was past the half-way mark in 2013, I was almost just hanging on to the finish," he told reporters.
"This year I'm a lot fresher, a lot more mentally prepared, I feel as if I'm getting stronger in this year's race.
"Now it's up to other teams to put pressure on, this is the heart of the race now, we're going to see who's done their homework, this is where the real race for yellow truly starts."
But even though the 30-year-old feels fresh, he is looking forward to waiting and watching on Tuesday's 167-kilometre ride from Tarbes to La Pierre Saint Martin - with the stage finishing on the 'hors categorie' (beyond categorization) peak.
"It's quite a key stage tomorrow. It's not as hard as other mountain days that we've got coming up but it is the first mountain-top finish and everyone's going to be looking at this as a gauge as to how we're going to go over the next two weeks," Froome said.
"It's a very important stage but I'm very grateful to be in the position that I'm in now not trying to make up time on anyone else.
"I've got the position that I can just ride towards the front of the race and focus on other GC contenders now to put in their attacks, put in their moves and show their card."
Froome also could not resist a little dig at the riders - such as Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) - that had been widely expected to challenge for GC honours before the Tour began on July 4.
"If you're one of those big GC contenders and you're losing time on an almost daily basis, it has to be quite a negative thing within the team and morale can't be good," he said.