Chris Froome expecting warm welcome from Tour de France fans after tough 2015

Froome says he expects a great atmosphere at the 2016 edition of the Tour de France after trouble with fans on the roadside last year

Photo: Daniel Gould

Team Sky's Chris Froome says that he expects the 2016 Tour de France to be different from 2015, when fans booed him, called names and threw urine.

Froome is lining up on Saturday in Normandy to try for his third title. On Thursday at the Mecure hotel, just 500 metres away from Omaha Beach where allied forces landed on D-Day, he met with press.

>>> Tour de France 2016 preview: Grand Départ and week one (video)

"Hopefully it'll be in the same way that we were received a couple of weeks ago in the [Critérium du] Dauphiné; there was a great atmosphere there," Froome said to a small room packed with journalists.

"This is the biggest race for us and the biggest race in our calendar. We love being here and we love racing in France."

Froome's former teammate Richie Porte was punched after helping his captain to win at La Pierre-Saint-Martin last year. Days later on the stage to Mende, Froome described how someone through a "small cup of urine" and yelled "doper" at him.

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The tension and fears appeared to grow around the race and Sky. In the later stages, armed French police stood around the Sky bus before and after the stages against possible troublemakers.

In France, and around the world, a much larger fear has developed after the terrorists attacks in Paris last November that left 130 dead. Another round in Brussels in March, killed 32.

After the Brussels bombings, Belgian race organisers upped security around their races. The Tour organiser ASO announced this week that in addition to the 23,000 police, the GIGN force with a special anti-terrorism branch will help protect its race. Froome said that he is thinking about the race first.

"We are here at the start, we haven't seen any additional personnel here or anything like that," Froome explained.

"Our focus is on the race, what you mentioned there is something that's happening behind the scenes. We didn't come here thinking about it, our focus is on our race."

Froome prepared to be ready for the third week of this year's race through the Alps and for the second half of the season with the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and the Vuelta a España.

"It's been good for me to change it up and have a different focus. It has been different, and I'm glad that we took that approach, hopefully that will carry me well in the third week.

Chris Froome wins Stage 10 of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

Chris Froome wins Stage 10 of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)
(Image credit: Watson)

"That is something that I made as a personal goal, to be stronger than ever in the past in the third week of this year's edition,” added Froome.

"More specifically, it's delaying the reach of peak form. In previous seasons, in the spring I had already been at that shape and then just trying to hang to it. I have only really just got there now.

"In this period, I feel that I've reached that level again. I hope that means I can hang on to it longer this time and as you say, on to Rio as well.

"Many people will be looking at the last week given it's so heavy-loaded in the mountains, stages 17, 18 and 20. Anyone wanting to make up time, those will be good opportunities. For who is defending, that will be one of the toughest challenges in four back to back days like that."

The race starts with several flat stages in Normandy and then heads to the south, where Sky said that it could already try to attack in the crosswinds to help gain time and deliver Froome to a third victory.

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Gregor Brown

Gregor Brown is an experienced cycling journalist, based in Florence, Italy. He has covered races all over the world for over a decade - following the Giro, Tour de France, and every major race since 2006. His love of cycling began with freestyle and BMX, before the 1998 Tour de France led him to a deep appreciation of the road racing season.