Team Saxo-Tinkoff director Bjarne Riis has played down the chances of his main charger Alberto Contador for next year's Tour de France and instead handed the tag of favourite to defending champion Chris Froome (Sky). Following the unveiling of the parcours for the La Grande Boucle Riis backed Froome to win his second Tour, but pointed to the five mountain stages stating, or hoping, that the good climbers in the peloton could put Froome under pressure before the time trial on the penultimate stage.
"All in all, I'm content with the route as it has a good dynamic. Froome is the main favourite but there are quite a few mountains along the way where climbers get a chance to take time and put him under pressure before the crucial time trial," said Riis.
In this year's Tour de France Froome was left isolated for the majority of the ninth stage after Team Sky were attacked left, right and centre by their opposition. Although it had minimal impact on the final GC the possibility was there to put Froome into great difficulty, and it is perhaps a similar level of aggression against Froome and Team Sky that Riis may be hoping to drum up for next year.
Riis also shared the concerns already expressed by Froome and Contador over the inclusion of cobbles in the 2014 Tour where riders will face a tough 15.4km of pavé over nine sections during the 156km fifth stage.
"Stage five with the cobblestones is definitely worth watching. As we know from the past, there are risks associated with the treacherous surface but it's a part of the game that we see as a challenge and Alberto is not bad on the cobbles.
"In addition, I'm looking forward to entering the Vosges Mountains that could easily create havoc in the peloton and as always, the Alps and Pyrenees offer some entertaining key stages. The long time trial is an advantage for the riders who have the most energy left in the tank after a long and tough race."