Having strengthened their squad in the off-season, Team Sky are seeking success in both the Tour de France and Giro d'Italia next season, with Chris Froome hoping to defend his Tour title and Mikel Landa targeting the Giro.
At the route presentation for the 2016 Tour de France in Paris, Dave Brailsford gave away the team's lofty ambitions, telling Cyclingnews that Sky would send capable squads to each race with the aim of bringing back overall honours in both events.
"For his first season with us I think Mikel will focus on the Giro in the first part. The Tour and the Giro, it's not an A squad and a B squad. We're going to go at both races at full gas this year," he said.
Team Sky have looked at securing the double in previous seasons, notably in 2013 and 2015, but in both instances they fell short in the Giro before securing the yellow jersey in the Tour courtesy of Froome. With the British rider keen to attempt the defence of his title, and new recruit Landa – who was third in the Giro this year – Brailsford will need to delicately and meticulously plan for the assault. But on Tuesday all eyes were on the Tour, with ASO presenting a balanced route but one that certainly has characteristics that play into Froome's hands.
Although time trial kilometres are still relatively thin on the ground, the cobbles from the last two editions have been removed and Mont Ventoux, where Froome stamped his authority on the race in 2013, makes a return. The time trial kilometres are far from the traditional flat courses, with stage 13 from Bourg-Saint-Andéol to La Caverne du Pont-d'Arc offering up 37 kilometres of rolling terrain. Stage 18 to Sallanches to Megève provides an almost exclusively uphill 17 kilometre test.
"I think that it looks really good and quite exciting. I think that they've got quite a good mix of mountain stages, hill-top finishes, and I think the two individual time trials will make it really interesting," Brailsford mused after the presentation.
"Compared to last year it's a step in the right direction," he said in relation to the time trial kilometres.
"Even with the 37 kilometres, it's not flat and there's quite a technical descent in there. It's a good sporting roadmap's course, so the time trialing element will be critical. But I don't think it will be like the flat traditional time trials, like we saw in 2012 or 2013."
The team manager, who has led Team Sky to three Tour wins in five attempts, also pinpointed the final week in which the up-hill time trial is bookended by several mountain stages.
"When you look at where the emphasis of the race is, it's all to be played for in the last section. You got the rest day, time trial and then some really tough mountain stages."
The Mont Ventoux climb on stage 13 will see Froome return to the scene where he put the field to the sword in 2013 - a performance that returned to the front pages of the press this year when it was alleged that his data from the winning ride had been hacked and played over a video of his ride. That day Froome dropped Contador and Nairo Quintana, and the pair will once again be his principle challengers in 2016.
"Where the Ventoux is, that's probably quite strategic," Brailsford said.
"Certainly at this first glance. We'll go away now, look at the demands and then try and figure out a strategy. On Ventoux there are going to be differences, and so it's a question if you can gain time earlier on in the race, the time trials and then keep that. Certainly from a tactical point of you view there are different ways of coming at it."
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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