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Froome ahead of schedule as Tour de France looms

PARIS (Reuters) - Although his preparations have been hampered by a back injury and a chest infection, Chris Froome claims he is ahead of schedule as the Briton gears up for his Tour de France defence.

The Team Sky rider retained his Tour de Romandie title on Sunday after shrugging off Tour rival Vincenzo Nibali of Italy in the queen mountain stage and winning the final individual time trial.

"I am ahead of where I was last year at the same time," Froome was quoted as saying in French sports daily L'Equipe on Monday.

"But I still have a lot of work. I am going back to Tenerife to... gain power and lose weight."

Froome's coach Tony Kerrison agreed with the rider's assessment of his fitness compared to the same stage 12 months ago.

"He is at least as well as last year. In the last training camp, he was at a higher level," Kerrison told the paper.

Froome sat out of last month's Liege-Bastogne-Liege classic with a chest infection after also skipping the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in March because of back problems.

His only remaining race before the Tour de France will be the Criterium du Dauphine from June 8-15.

The Tour starts in Leeds, England on July 5.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by John O'Brien)

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