AJACCIO , France (AFP) – Britain's Chris Froome indicated that he is slowly growing in confidence in Sunday' second stage of the Tour de France as he seeks to live up to the huge expectations placed on him ahead of the race.
The overwhelming pre-race favourite managed to steer clear of trouble on Saturday's chaotic opening stage and then finished in a large pack of riders that crossed the line just a second behind surprise second-stage winner Jan Bakelants of Belgium.
The 28-year-old Kenyan-born star also underlined his climbing credentials with a break on the final ascent of the day, the third-category Cote du Salario just before the finish line in Ajaccio.
While he slowed on the downhill and missed out on the chance to open up a gap on rivals such as Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans in the process, he said at the end of the stage that he was more than happy with his performance.
"The main objective for us was to stay out of trouble today, stay at the front, and not lose any time to the main contenders," he told Team Sky's official website.
"With that little climb about 10km from the finish - I knew the descent was tricky and dangerous. I was on the front with Richie (Porte) and I thought it might be a good time, just to push on a little bit, get ahead and take the descent at my own pace and stay out of trouble."
Froome admitted ahead of the Grand Depart to the 100th Tour to feeling a little nervous about the opening three stages in Corsica, but he looks to be in a safe position ahead of Monday's short 145-kilometre ride north from Ajaccio to Calvi.
That will be followed by a team time-trial on Tuesday when the Tour reaches the French mainland for the first time in Nice.
Meanwhile, there was more concern in the Sky camp over the fitness of Froome's teammate Geraint Thomas on Sunday.
The 27-year-old Welshman had to undergo tests in Bastia on Saturday after falling in a mass crash towards the end of the first stage, and the official Tour medical report after the second stage confirmed that he was receiving treatment for a sore left hip.