Chris Froome got a first taste of what the status of Tour de France favourite brings with it when he attracted the biggest attendance of the day to the conference room on the Tour’s floating home in Porto Vecchio bay. Sitting alongside his teammates and Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford, Froome confessed, “I don’t think there’s much you can do to be ready for this amount of hype. It’s really different to any other races we’ve got on the calendar. It’s a bit of a surprise to see it.”
The Kenyan-born Brit described himself as being “in super condition. I feel ready and I feel I’ve got a strong team around me. I’m just looking forward to getting into the race now.”
He refused to be drawn on his rivals for the yellow jersey, simply stating: “There are a lot of very capable GC riders in this year’s Tour de France. I’m not going to name them because I’m sure to miss one out, but I’d say there are close to seven or eight guys who stand out as potential winners.”
However, he did acknowledge the difficulty of the opening three days of the race in Corsica. “One of the objectives for this race will be about limiting losses on the less decisive stages and then we can look at the rest of the race from there. That’s definitely the objective here in Corsica,” said Froome, whose run of race-winning success this season began on the island at the Criterium International in March.
His training partner and right-hand man, Richie Porte, offered further insight into the Corsican stages, and particularly the one to Calvi on day three. “We looked at it just after the Criterium International. We were a little bit shocked at just how technical it is. It will be a case of staying up at the front and staying out of trouble,” said the Australian.
“I think the whole first week is always nervous, and it will be especially nervous here. All of the GC teams are going to be at the front and all of the sprinters are going to be at the front so it’s going to be nice to watch on television… But we ride at the front in every race. It’s something we’re used to, we’ve done it at every race for the past two years. If we can come in with the same mentality hopefully we’ll stay safe.”
Asked to compare this year’s Sky line-up with last year’s Tour-winning team, Porte said: "It’s a different team, it’s a different Tour. It’s not like a car where you can look at the horsepower and see the difference. There’s probably a difference on the climbs. I think last year we were good but hopefully this year we’re better. We’ve got Geraint Thomas and Pete Kennaugh, who are climbing really well. We’ve lost guys, and you can’t replace Brad Wiggins, but there are going to be guys who step up like Christian Knees did last year.”
He then sketched out the differences and similarities between this year’s Sky leader, fellow Monaco resident Froome, and last year’s, defending Tour champion Bradley Wiggins. “Brad’s a great time triallist. He climbs totally differently to Chris. You don’t really see Bradley out of the saddle. He’s constant power and that’s how he likes to ride the climbs. Whereas Chris is just a bit of a thrash-machine, getting in and out of the saddle. On the road, though, they’re much the same – cool, calm and collected. There’s not really that much difference between having Brad or Chris as leader. The goal is the same – the top step in Paris.”
As Froome’s regular training partner in Monaco, Porte also offered an insight into the changes he has seen in the Briton saying: “He was so motivated coming out of last year’s Tour. He was convinced he could win. He could the rider of the next generation.”
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Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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