Chris Froome (Team Sky) has praised Alberto Contador’s ambitious attempt at the Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double but restated his desire to concentrate on the Tour in 2015. The British rider was speaking at a roundtable event at Team’s Sky training camp in Mallorca, Spain where also described Team Sky's roster as their strongest yet.
“I will say that Contador has set himself a very difficult objective, to win the Giro and the Tour. I’m not going to say that it’s impossible and if anyone can do it Alberto is the rider to know how to,” Froome told the gathering press.
“He was winning the Tour back in 2007 so he’s been doing this for a good few years, and he knows how to get himself ready for a race like the Tour de France but for me personally I know how hard it is to do two Grand Tours back to back and to be going for the win in both Grand Tours, so for now my priority is the Tour de France.”
Contador’s decision to tackle the Grand Tour double this season sees him stand apart from the majority of his rivals but it has kept the flames alive in the rivalry between Froome and the Spaniard. The pair first clashed as Grand Tour rivals at the Tour in 2013 with the British rider putting in a commanding display to win the race. Contador could only manage fourth but the pair began hostilities again at last year’s Vuelta a España. Both riders had crashed out of the Tour in July and returned to Spain with Contador getting the upper hand and beating Froome into second place.
In recent interviews the Tinkoff-Saxo leader has pinpointed Froome as his main rival for the Tour, and Froome returned the compliment before adding that the likes of Vinenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana could also not be ruled out.
“I think Alberto is one of the biggest rivals, my biggest rival. I think last year’s Vuetla is still very fresh in my mind and how strong he was after his really serious injuries, so I think he’s going to be one of the toughest guys but it’s really good for the sport to have this kind of rivalry. It’s what the fans want to see, the race organisers and we can’t discount guys like Nibali, Quintana, and Purito. All of these guys need the same level of respect.”
At one stage in the winter it had looked as though both riders would go stride for stride in the Giro-Tour doubleheader after Froome had announced his praise of the Giro route on his personal website. Oleg Tinkov – Tinkoff Saxo’s owner - had talked up a €1 million purse for riders willing to race both events but since then Froome and Team Sky have decided that the Tour remains their main ambition.
“Given that where I am right now, that I’m 29 years old, and coming into my best years as a professional cyclist and that the Tour de France is the biggest race for us, I think it would be a loss to miss the Tour,” he said.
“Having said that, the Giro really is a good route for me, with multiple summit finishes and a long, hard time trial. I would have liked to have been there but to have done the Giro and then the Tour, if you’re realistically looking to win both, it’s difficult and a big ask. It’s more realistic to do the Giro and the Vuelta because the Giro-Tour are too close to each other."
Team Sky has bolstered their options in the off-season in a bid to improve their defensive lines. Last year Froome was somewhat isolated at times but they British team have brought in Nicolas Roche, Wout Poels and Leopold König into their rank. Richie Porte has rediscovered his form while back in Australia and Froome believes that this team are the strongest he’s worked with since the squad’s inception five years ago.
“It’s exciting, really exciting because all of those guys are all contenders in their own rights and have been in the top ten in grand tours so to have them on board is a huge boost to our Tour de France pool that we’ll select from. There’s a buzz around here and everyone is keen to get stuck in.”
“I would definitely say that we’re starting with the strongest roster, throughout the team, that we’ve ever had on Team Sky. We have a lot of strength in depth that we can choose from and hopefully that will mean that our Grand Tour teams are the strongest that we’ve had yet.”