By Gilles Le Roc'h
QUINCIE-EN-BEAUJOLAIS, France (Reuters)- Confined to a "domestique" role to help Bradley Wiggins in the Tour de France, Briton Chris Froome is convinced that he can one day become a Tour contender in his own right.
"I'd like to win the Tour one day but it doesn't necessarily have to be this year," the Kenyan-born Team Sky rider told journalists in his team hotel in the Beaujolais vineyards on the Tour rest day on Tuesday.
Winner of the first mountain stage of this edition at La Planche des Belles Filles on Saturday, the 27-year-old all-rounder also finished second to Wiggins in Monday's key time trial in Besancon and now lies third overall, 2:07 behind his team leader.
"I know my time will come one day and that this team will do for me what they're doing for Bradley now," he added, ruling out leaving Team Sky to play his own cards in the future.
There has been speculation about the team's future tactics since the show of strength by both Team Sky key riders in Besancon's timed effort, but Wiggins himself made it clear the race would dictate the gameplan.
"To be honest, we haven't gone that far yet," he said.
While both riders and the team staff says there is no rivalry between the pair, the situation is reminiscent of the 2011 Spanish Vuelta.
Froome then finished second, ahead of Wiggins and behind Spain's Juan Jose Cobo, who made his decisive move in the Alto de l'Algliru, one of cycling's toughest climbs.
Froome said he was convinced the outcome would be different this time.
"The outline of this race makes it difficult, I think, for someone to make as much of a difference as Cobo made in the Vuelta," he said.
He pledged to sacrifice his own chances this time for the man who has won all the major stage races he entered this season - Paris-Nice, the Tour de Romandie and the Criterium du Dauphine.
"My priority is to make sure the man on top of the podium in Paris is Bradley Wiggins. To be on the podium by his side would be a fantastic satisfaction," Froome said.
Asked whether he would try his own luck should Wiggins have a bad day in the mountains, he said: "No. The plan is to stay with Brad and try to bring him back as much as possible."
Froome's blossoming had long been hampered by outbreaks of bilharziasis, a parasitic disease which affected him again earlier in the season.
"But I didn't panic. I knew that if I did what I did last year before the Vuelta, I'd reach the same level of form. I have a lot more confidence now," he said.
(Editing by Clare Fallon)