One of Chris Froome's lieutenants during the high mountains of the Tour de France will be his Team Sky teammate Leopold König. The 27-year-old Czech rider has proven himself in the Grand Tours, finishing in the top 10 at all three.
Two years ago he won a mountaintop finish and placed ninth overall in the Vuelta a España while riding for the Netapp-Endura team. Last year, he finished seventh in the Tour de France, before signing with Team Sky. In May, he placed sixth in the Giro d’Italia.
On Thursday evening he lined up alongside his Sky teammates at the team presentation in front of a huge crowd in Utrecht, unsure whether riding two Grand Tours back to back would be possible for him.
“It [the double] was always on my program," he said. "You never know in such a strong team like Team Sky. There’s so many riders in form. You never know if you’re going to make the list. I’m really happy that this can be like a next step in my career to do the double Giro-Tour. Personally, I’m really curious how I’m going to handle it.”
When asked about how he recovered from the Giro d'Italia, he said that it wasn’t easy. “To be honest, the first three weeks were just really tough. Not even physically but also mentally tough because when you consider it you’ve got five weeks time to recover and that’s not a long time.
"The first week you just take time off and then you slowly start training. Then we went to Switzerland for one week of intensive training, which was the only week of real training. Then there was some rest, Nationals and now I’m here. Today, for the first time since the Giro, I felt some freshness in the legs so I think it’s on the good way.”
His main focus at the Tour de France is to support Froome in the high mountains during the second half of the race, in the same way that Froome supported Bradley Wiggins back in 2012.
“I think the goal is really clear, just like for Richie Porte," he said. "There’s almost no plan B. If something’s going to happen then we have a lot of opportunities in the stages but as a plan B for GC I don’t think it’s on the list. My role will be similar to Richie's role: helping in the really high mountains and the really tough stages. That’s going to be my biggest task in the race.”
Future-wise König understands that Froome will remain the British team’s leader at the Tour de France for many years to come. Though König was unclear as to whether or not he will receive a leadership role at either the Giro d’Italia or the Vuelta a España next year.
“It’s hard to say. I didn’t even know before the Giro if it was the right race for me. We have, possibly, a clear leadership in the Tour for several years but there are some possibilities in the Giro and the Vuelta. I’d be really happy to get another chance at leading a team, sure.”