This year’s Tour de France champion Chris Froome outlined his intent to defend his Tour crown in eight months’ time at the official launch of the 2014 route in Paris on Wednesday morning.
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“I’m getting really excited about the challenge,” Froome said after the route was presented. “It’s going to be a fun one to go for.”
Tour organisers ASO have created a route that suits Froome down to the ground. Following on from the opening three British stages, five summit finishes are likely to give Froome another opportunity to build his bid for the yellow jersey around his climbing ability.
Froome won two of the four summit finishes on offer this year, and took his first ever Tour stage victory on a climb which gives the 2014 edition its first true mountain test: La Planche des Belles Filles.
“All five summit finishes are going to be days that really sort out the general classification,” he said. “I think the first one especially: La Planche des Belles Filles [stage 10]. I think we can expect bigger time gaps there than we did in 2012 because of the amount of climbing before the final climb.”
The penultimate stage time trial from Bergerac to Perigueux – a flat, 54km test against the clock – means this isn’t purely a climber’s Tour, with the threat of crosswinds and cobbles [stage five] also likely to play on the minds of the peloton’s lightwights.
“The pure climbers will certainly be up there with that amount of climbing,” added Froome, “but they have to get over the cobblestones and they have to battle through any crosswinds that we have on the way to the mountains, and they also have to be able to time trial at the end of it. It’s a pretty well balanced Tour.”
His Director Sportif Nicholas Portal is confident Froome can handle the cobbles. “Even though he does not have a beautiful style on the bike, Chris is rarely on the ground. He knows how to handle his bike.”
Away from the cobbles, Froome was pleased to hear of the Tour’s return to the Planche de de belle filles, where he won in 2012. “I’ll definitely get that special feeling again. It’s going to be the first summit finish again, and that always marks an important day.”
Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish expressed his excitement for the home grand depart. “The first stage finishes in my home town, so a lot of my family will be there. We have an apartment literally 50 metres from the stage finish. I used to stay there two or three times a year as a child.
“I would like to try to gain the yellow jersey again with a stage win [on the opening day]”
Meanwhile, 4 time stage winner last year and Cavendish’s news nemesis Marcel Kittel took to twitter to express his views on the route:
Nice to be @ Tour presentation! Start in Leeds & first part of the TdF looks nice! The 2nd half? Ouch! I feel fat when I see the profiles…
Bauke Mollema, who also rode impressively last year, said he was ‘satisfied’ with the route. “It looks promising. Race will be more open and probably exciting till the end. Well done ASO.”