Froome believes that Valverde will take yellow on stage 5

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Froome once again finished safely among the peloton as German Marcel Kittel snatched Tuesday’s fourth stage by a whisker, leaving the Team Sky rider 18 seconds behind yellow-jersey holder Peter Sagan.

The battle among the major contenders for the general classification is expected to intensify when the Tour sees its first mountainous stage today, a 213.5km route from Limoges to Le Lioran.

Froome has the same time as Colombian Nairo Quintana, but fellow rival Alberto Contador is already 48 seconds further back and the Briton anticipates further significant movement in the Massif Central.

“It’s a bit too early to see a real general classification battle but it is definitely somewhere where there will be time gaps,” he said. “There will probably be a few tired legs out there. Even though these days have been relatively easy, they’ve still been 250km stages.”

“Tomorrow it’s a tricky final and there will definitely be more action from the GC guys. We’ve not looked at the finish but I’ve only seen it on paper. I think it’s harder than stage 2 but the objective isn’t really to gain time. I’ll stay at the front and try not to lose time. That might mean I end up gaining time. We’ll see.”

“Valverde shouldn’t get dropped on a finish like that and if anything he’ll be up there fighting for the win. He’ll be the main favourite, or Alaphilippe maybe,” Froome said.

“He [Valverde] seems to be in good nick and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him ride for GC and looking after himself, and then have a two-pronged approach with Nairo [Quintana]. They’ve definitely got the team to do it. Until he loses time I’ve got to treat him like a rivals.”

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