Froome: First phase of Tour crucial


Published: Friday 26th June 2015 by The News Editor

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Chris Froome expects the first nine days of the Tour de France to be about survival before the battle for the yellow jersey can begin in earnest.

The 30-year-old 2013 winner pulled out of the 2014 edition with a fractured hand and broken wrist on stage five after three crashes in two days, the most severe coming early on the first stage on French soil following the start in Yorkshire.

This year’s 102nd edition of the race, which begins in Utrecht on July 4, features cobbles, anticipated crosswinds and other potentially troublesome moments even before the Pyrenees and Alps, where the race is generally won.

“That first week really is going to be crucial, the first nine days until we get up to the mountains on stage 10,” Froome said from his Monaco base.

“In my mind each one of those nine stages is like a classics race in its own right.

“We’ve almost got to do nine one-day classics before then starting the GC (general classification) race up in the mountains. Before you get through those nine classics you’re not even entered in the GC race.”

Froome believes the support of the other eight riders in Team Sky’s squad will be key early on.

The nine-man line-up is still to be announced but could include classics aces Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe, who could make his debut in no small part due to the challenging early part of the three-week race.

“It’s going to be hugely difficult, but I think we’ve got potentially a very strong classic influence in our Tour de France squad,” Froome added.

“The team performed really well this year and hopefully some of those guys could be part of the final nine selected and help me get through those first nine days.”

Cycling has a history of performance-enhancing drug use and Froome was subjected to innuendo and scrutiny during his dominant win at the Tour.

Nevertheless, he is happy to be a spokesperson for drug-free sport and openness and recently admitted to missing two out-of-competition anti-doping tests, one in 2010 and one earlier this year.

His missed test this year came during a short break in Italy with wife Michelle, when staff at the luxury hotel where they were staying refused to allow anti-doping testers to disturb the couple.

He said of that: ”Unfortunately I just didn’t see this one coming. But it’s opened my eyes and I’m definitely going to be more proactive in the future.

”It’s always the athlete’s responsibility to make sure he or she is available for testing.”

Looking ahead to the upcoming Tour, Froome is expected to rival defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, 2015 Giro d’Italia champion Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana, the runner-up when Froome won two years ago, for the top step on the Paris podium on July 26.

The Kenya-born Briton feels more relaxed this year than last, when the race began in Leeds, after winning the Criterium du Dauphine.

“I feel as if I’m coming into the race with a lot less pressure on my shoulders. I feel a lot more relaxed not coming in as the defending champion,” he said.

“From a personal point of view, I got married at the end of last year, my wife and I are expecting a child towards the end of this year. It just feels as if I’m in a great place now.”

Published: Friday 26th June 2015 by The News Editor

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