While the WorldTour is already underway in Australia, Chris Froome (Sky) is continuing his build-up to the 2014 season by training at home in South Africa ahead of his first race of the new campaign, the Tour of Oman in mid-February.
Froome’s last outing of 2013 was the Saitama Criterium in Japan in late October, after which he spent five weeks away from the training, longest break of his professional career. “I needed a mental break to escape from all the obligations,” he told L’Équipe.
The Tour de France winner then spent the month of December in Monaco before travelling to the southern hemisphere to begin his preparations for the new season in earnest. Sky soigneur Claudio Lucchini is also in South Africa with Froome, while Kanstantin Siutsou and trainer Tim Kerrison are set to join them next week.
When Froome returns to Europe in the spring, most of his altitude training will be carried out on Mount Teide, in Tenerife, but for now at least, he said he was happier to train on the roads near his home in the Johannesburg suburb of Parkhurst.
“Being here helps me stay fresher mentally. I’m working hard but it’s not like a training camp in Tenerife,” Froome said. “I’m at home, I’m relaxing, I see my friends and family. It’s an important part of my preparation and, what’s more, the altitude of 1600-1700 metres is very good for this kind of training.”
According to L’Équipe, Froome has been training in four-day blocks during his time in South Africa, riding early in the day to avoid the most intense heat. Last Friday, he trained for two and a half hours on his time trial bike, averaging over 300 watts for the session. However, Froome insisted that he does not pay that much attention to the reading on his power meter at this point in the year.
“Here I don’t have an eye fixed on my power meter. I’m looking left and right to see where the animals are,” he said.
Froome’s 2014 season begins at the Tour of Oman, which he won last season, and he also looks set to ride alongside Bradley Wiggins at both Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-San Remo. Defending his Tour de France title is the main objective of Froome’s season, of course, and the grand rendezvous in July is never far from his thoughts.
“It’s always there, in the back of my mind. When I ride like this, all alone, I think about the big mountain finishes, the start in Great Britain, the pavé, the last time trial. I think of all of that and how I’ll approach it,” Froome said. “Today, I thought about how the race was going to pan out tactically, and I also thought about La Planche des Belles Filles [where he won in 2012 - ed.] I can’t wait to get back there.”