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PARIS (AFP) — Reigning champion Chris Froome (Sky) said he was delighted by the 2014 Tour de France route, despite it seemingly favoring pure climbers.
Froome stormed to victory in this year’s race by more than four minutes, hammering home his superiority over his rivals notably in the time trials, where he was imperious.
However, he also sparkled in the mountain stages, particularly early on, before he eventually lost time to Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) later in the race when both were already too far behind to challenge him for the overall win.
And having seen the route, revealed on Wednesday by organizer ASO at a presentation ceremony in Paris and which includes five summit finishes and a 54km time trial, Froome said he was delighted.
Yet despite featuring just one time trial, as opposed to this year’s race that had two time trials and also a team time trial, along with one fewer summit finish, Froome still thinks the course will favor him instead of the likes of Quintana or Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank).
“We’ve got five mountaintop finishes, that’s more than this year. That’s a good thing for me and also with the penultimate stage being a 50+ kilometer individual time trial, that’s something that suits me,” Froome said. “So, yes, I’m getting excited about the prospect of taking on next year’s Tour.”
If there is one worry, it’s the cobblestones on the fifth stage from Ypres in Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut. Froome, however, says he is not concerned about losing time over that section — he just wants to stay out of trouble.
“Cobblestones add to [the excitement] by adding an aspect we’re not used to in the Tour de France,” the 28-year-old said. “I don’t think it will be too different, we still have to go away and analyze the route and build the team around it.
“I don’t see anything that takes it too far away from this year’s Tour, apart from the aspect of not having the team time trial in next year’s route. I haven’t done much on cobblestones, it’s going to be a challenge and that’s something we’ll have to look at specifically and prepare for specifically.
“I don’t think I’m any worse than Nairo Quintana or Alberto Contador on the cobbles. I probably won’t be able to follow the likes of Fabian Cancellara or Tom Boonen, but as long as I’m within the group of the GC riders, or it could even be somewhere we take time. It’s an exciting challenge to take on.”
Froome succeeded compatriot Bradley Wiggins as Tour winner after the Olympic time trial champion was forced to pull out of his defense due to illness and injury.
Wiggins has already stated his intention to return to track cycling in 2015 but has yet to commit either way to next year’s Tour.
If he does decide to take part, Froome is confident Wiggins will have no issues with working for the current champion.
“At the end of the day, the team’s always going to select the nine strongest guys to go to the Tour with the best possible chance of winning it,” Froome said. “If Bradley’s in that nine or not would be for the performance team to decide, but I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t be there.”
For another fellow Briton, sprint ace Mark Cavendish, the Tour starting with a flat stage in Yorkshire provides him with an ideal opportunity to try to snatch the yellow jersey in his home country.
“It’s super important, it’s the second time in my career the Tour de France is coming to the UK, “Cavendish said. “It’s a massive honor to be a part of it.
“The first stage finishes in my mother’s home town [of Harrogate]. A lot of my family still live there, I spent much time as a child there so to be able to try and win the stage and get the yellow jersey there, it’s big.”