Chris Froome will renew his acquaintance with the formidable Mont Ventoux at next year’s Tour de France, but feels he will have to show his all-round qualities to retain the yellow jersey.
Froome turned in an astonishing display on the gruelling 22.7 kilometre ascent on his way to victory in the 2013 race, but it has not featured in the last two editions.
Its expected return was confirmed at yesterday’s route announcement in Paris but, while there was plenty to enthuse fans of summit finishes, there were also two testing individual time-trials of 34km and 17km and the usual smattering of sprints.
Froome, hoping to win for the third time in four years and become the first man since Miguel Indurain in 1995 to defend his title, is wary of the challenge.
The 30-year-old Team Sky rider, who was in attendance in the French capital, told Sky Sports: “I think it’s a great route. It’s very well balanced. There is a bit of everything and it is going to take a winner who can do everything.
“It is going to have challenging climbs. We are going back to Mont Ventoux, which is a special one for me, but on top of that we have got two pretty tough time-trials and a first week with potentially some crosswinds, so it’s going to be critical to have the kind of team to give you the support to get you through those stages.
“They are tough time-trials. They are not flat by any means. My time-trialling is something I’m going to have to work on this next season. I really think it’s going to be a pivotal point of next year’s Tour.
“They have included quite a few new climbs also that we haven’t seen before, so we are going to have to get out there and go and do a bit more recon.”
The Montpellier-Mont Ventoux stage has again been slated for July 14, Bastille Day. That was also the case when Froome tamed the famous mountain two years ago to blow away his rivals.
Froome also has recent experience of the roads in Andorra (where he crashed out of this year’s Vuelta), one of two cross-border locations in next year’s race along with the Swiss city of Bern.
The first stage is set to feature a sprint finish at Utah Beach, site of one of the D-Day landings, meaning a chance for Mark Cavendish to lay claim to the yellow jersey. The Manxman had hoped to do so in 2014 when the Grand Depart came to Yorkshire, but he crashed in the closing moments at Harrogate and could not continue.
One of Froome’s main general classification rivals, the outgoing Alberto Contador, tweeted a positive reaction to the new route: “Mountainous Tour from the start with 2 hard ITT. Beautiful, attractive, that encouraged me, from today thinking on it!”
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