2017 Tour de France route challenges Team Sky's grip

Organisers of the Tour de France will look to crack Team Sky’s stranglehold on the event with a challenging course that rewards aggressive riding, race director Christian Prudhomme declared yesterday.

2017 Tour de France route challenges Team Sky's grip

The 104th edition will visit all five of France’s mountain ranges for the first time in 25 years. The early climbs could limit opportunities for strong teams to dominate stages. Shorter, steep stages feature throughout the race as race organisers hope to make the race more dramatic and less controllable. Rival teams struggled to break the tempo dictated by Team Sky squad in the mountains in recent years, but may have more opportunity in 2017.

Prudhomme’s 2017 Tour course includes many challenging climbs, five of them making their first appearance on the Tour and many early in stages, which will start from Duesseldorf on July 1 and go through five countries before ending in Paris on July 23.

“We want to favour the long-range attacks,” Prudhomme said. “We want to break the catenaccio on the race,” he added, referring to tactical riding which has seen top teams like Sky dominate on flatter stages.

The Col d’Izoard represents the final summit finish, before the penultimate day’s time-trial in Marseille, which finishes inside the Stade Velodrome football arena. Despite the new route, Chris Froome will be optimistic of a fourth Tour de France title in 2017. Froome won the 2013, 2015 and 2016 Tours. “It’s definitely going to be a climbers’ race, from what I can tell,” Froome, who was at the route unveiling in Paris, said.

Mark Cavendish will have chances to add to his 30 stage victories — second to Eddy Merckx’s 34 — with nine stages for the sprinters on a 3,516 kilometres route that begins in Dusseldorf, Germany, with a 13km time-trial. The Tour will start in Germany on July 1, 2017, 30 years after the 1987 Grand Depart in Berlin - before passing through Belgium and Luxembourg. The Tour visits the Vosges, Jura, Pyrenees, Central Massif and Alps mountain ranges for the first time since 1992, before the Paris finish on July 23.

Meanwhile Froome says questions remain over Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins seeking permission to use triamcinolone. Data stolen by hackers from files held by the World Anti-Doping Agency showed Wiggins received three therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone — a substance which has a history of abuse in cycling and is otherwise banned — on the eve of the 2011 and 2012 Tours and 2013 Giro d’Italia.

Froome admits he was unaware of his former team-mate’s TUEs. “I was surprised, it was the first that I had heard of them,” he told cyclingnews.com. “I had seen Bradley Wiggins using his inhalers so I knew he had asthma, but I wasn’t aware of his allergies.”

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