Team already thinking about balance of squad with one fewer rider to pick for the race
Nicolas Portal, one of the two Team Sky sports director to help guide Chris Froome to victory in the 2017 Tour de France, has said that he thinks that the route of the 2018 race will suit the British team.
Speaking after the route announcement on Tuesday, Portal said that the inventive route would reward a complete rider, as well as hopefully creating an exciting race.
“There is a lot of everything, if you see what I mean!” the Frenchman said. “There are a lot of cobbles, a lot of climbs, two short stages, but one that is really, really short [65km], a team time trial…
“I think it’s a great Tour for us, but also in general for the Tour de France. Whoever wins this race is going to be a complete rider. Compared to this year it looks like a less stressful Tour.
“Regaining any lost seconds was pretty hard. This Tour will be a bit different. If you miss one stage and lose some time, you can hope to gain back some time in a few days.”
Portal also revealed that he had already been in contact with Team Sky general manager Dave Brailsford to start to plan the team’s approach to next year’s race, where Chris Froome will be aiming to win a fifth Tour de France.
“I was already writing on my phone and talking to Dave. This is our job – we are constantly thinking, thinking! We need to get the detail right, look at the route, talk… But already we have a strong idea.”
The route of the 2018 Tour is one of the most diverse in years, featuring a cobbled stage, a 65km mountain stage, individual and team time trials, three summit finishes, and even a section of gravel riding in the Alps.
This parcours has almost certainly been designed to challenge the dominance that Chris Froome has held over the race in recent years, with the Brit picking out the first week – culminating with the trip to the pavé on stage nine – as particularly tricky.
“It’s tough. I wouldn’t expect any less from the Tour de France organisers – especially the first nine days,” the four-time winner said.
“It’s going to be very nervy and dangerous up in the north west of France before we hit any of the big mountain stages. The wind could be a massive factor up there and with the GC being so close we could see the race torn to pieces.
“You could see a lot happening that day [on the cobbles]. Then there’s a stage  with a gravel section in it – there’s going to be a lot to get ready for in that sense.”
Froome – and his rivals – will also have to cope with one fewer team-mate than in previous years, with team sizes being limited to eight rather than nine riders in each of the Grand Tours from 2018.
Selecting the best seven riders to help the 32-year-old through the tricky first week before still having riders at his side in the mountains is likely to be a tricky decision for Team Sky in the months before the race, with Froome already thinking about the balance of the team with one fewer rider.
“It’s definitely going to be a big consideration coming into the race, having a team that will keep me safe up north,” Froome continued. “Having said that we don’t want to compromise the team we’re going to have once we hit the Alps and the Pyrenees.
“I imagine, in terms of selection, it will be guys who are very versatile who will be the obvious choice – especially with the team time trial playing a big part in the race.”