Five-time Tour de France winner Miguel Indurain has backed Chris Froome (Team Sky) to win his second Tour title but warned him and his main rival Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) to keep an eye out for other GC threats on the road to Paris.
Froome will line up as the defending champion in Leeds next week and Indurain – based off USADA and UCI rulings over Lance Armstrong – is the last man in history to defend his Tour de France title. The Spaniard became the first man in history to win five straight Tour de France, taking his first title in 1991 in a run that lasted until he was beaten emphatically in 1996 by Bjarne Riis.
Speaking to the Independent, Indurain said “It’s going to be a good fight. He [Contador] has been much more consistent this year, more focused. Both are in great shape. But let’s not forget the other rivals; if Contador and Froome get too obsessed with beating each other, another rider could surprise both of them.”
Froome heads into the race on the back of a defeat in the Criterium du Dauphine. He won the opening two stages impressively but faced a barrage of attacks from Contador. A crash for the Sky rider derailed his overall bid with Andrew Talansky (Garmin Sharp) coming out on top.
While Froome has suffered with illness and injury at certain points in the season – not to mention a media storm over his TUE use at the Tour of Romandie – Contador has enjoyed one of best starts to a season in years.
After a lacklustre 2013 the two-time Tour winner looks close to his best and Indurain is expecting a solid fight between the pair. However the former Banesto leader warned that repeating a Tour victory is never easy: experience may be on your side, but so is the pressure.
“Repeating a victory in the Tour doesn’t get any easier just because you’ve done it once,” he told the Independent.
“Certain complicating factors disappear, but they get replaced by other ones. Ok, so you know you’ve got the physical ability to win the Tour. And you’ve got more experienced as a racer, too. But what gets a lot tougher from one year to the next is the increasing pressure from the outside world to win all over again.”
During his career Indurain was known for his calmness under pressure. He famously only lost his temper a handful of times as a rider while out on the road but he admitted that responsibility and pressure were factors in the world’s biggest race.
“The feeling of responsibility is greater, you’re more nervous. It never gets less complicated. Each year is as hard as the last.”