Even before the 2016 Tour de France route was revealed last week, Chris Froome was the bookmakers’ favourite to win next year’s edition of the race. Yet despite the bookies’ confidence in Froome successfully defending his 2015 Tour win, a consecutive victory appears to be against the odds.
The record books say that the last rider to put in a successful defence of a Tour win was Miguel Indurain in 1995, the last of his five consecutive Tour victories starting in 1991.
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Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador are the last two riders to stand on the Tour podium in Paris in consecutive years, but both have subsequently had those victories stripped as a result of being found out for doping.
So can 30-year-old Froome break the 20-year deadlock on a successful Tour defence?
Winning the world’s biggest bike race comes with its own pressures, which only seem to grow as the years pass. Everyone wants a piece of the Tour winner: sponsors, media, fans…
Italian 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali openly admitted that he found it hard to focus his training after his victory, and was off-form in the lead-up to the 2015 Tour – only really getting into his stride in October with a memorable victory in Il Lombardia. Froome himself crashed out of the 2014 Tour after winning in 2013, scuppering any chance of a podium appearance and proving that a Tour defence is very hard to come by.
Froome is currently jetting around the world in a whirlwind of PR this autumn, despite withdrawing from the Vuelta a España with injury.
He was last photographed in Japan doing a bit of archery as part of the festivities surrounding the Saitama Criterium. Froome and his wife, Michelle, are also imminently expecting the arrival of their first child – which may not do wonders for the Tour champ’s sleep patterns over the winter.
There are many distractions to prevent one of the world’s top sporting stars to get around to the job in hand.
And there are also Froome’s rivals to consider, of course: Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) will likely contest the Tour for the last time before retiring at the end of 2016 and will be seeking to go out on a high.
After winning the Vuelta in September, Fabio Aru (Astana) is looking to win the Tour for the first time. Then there’s Froome’s former right-hand-man Richie Porte, keen to make an impression at new team BMC, and Colombian climber Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who finished as runner-up to Froome in 2015.
Two time trials, plenty of climbing and no cobbled stages in the 2016 Tour parcours certainly play into Froome’s hands, it’s really whether he can keep a clear focus ahead of the race’s start in Mont Saint Michel on July 2 that may be the toughest challenge.
Don’t place your bets just yet.
Tour de France: recent winners
2006 Óscar Pereiro
2007 Alberto Contador
2008 Carlos Sastre
2009 Alberto Contador
2010 Andy Schleck
2011 Cadel Evans
2012 Bradley Wiggins
2013 Chris Froome
2014 Vincenzo Nibali
2015 Chris Froome