Team Sky's Chris Froome wants to avoid a disaster like the one in the 2014 Tour de France that sent him home in the first week, before the race even reached the high mountains, and will rely on a Classics-strong team with riders like Geraint Thomas.
The first week in the 2015 Tour, starting Saturday in Utrecht, will be "crucial" for him if he wants to continue to fight for a second overall title when the race ends in three weeks in Paris.
The Tour features a flat and potentially windy stage, a finish up the Mur de Huy that the Flèche Wallonne Classic uses annually, cobbles and a team time trial before reaching the first big mountains on stage 10. The only calm day could be when Froome kicks-off the Tour de France in the opening 13.8-kilometre individual time trial.
"That first week is going to be crucial, until we get to the mountains on stage 10," Froome said.
"Each day is like a Classics race in it's own right, like nine one-day Classics, before you get through that you are not even entered in the GC race in that regard."
From Utrecht, the Tour runs down the country's west coast, crosses into Belgium and cuts through France's northwest to reach the Plumelec team time trial. After a transfer to the Pyrenees in the southwest, the race begins the mountain stages.
>>> Your guide to the 2015 Tour de France cobbled stage (video)
Froome, who crashed in the opening kilometres of stage four and twice again in stage five, never made it that far last year and abandoned hopes of defending his 2013 title.
"It just happens in bike racing, someone veered sharply ahead of me, across of my front wheel and took it out. There was nothing I could do. I continued, but that was what ended my race, that's where I fractured my hand," Froome explained.
"The day after I got home, was watching the guys again, I had that burning desire and hunger to get back in. At that point, it seemed so long, so tough to get back, but it feels great to be here now.
“The whole team is buzzing after winning the Dauphiné. It was good for everyone's morale. I feel a lot less pressure on my shoulders, a lot more relaxed this time around."
Sky named their nine-man team with the first week in mind. Along with climbing aces like Wout Poels and Richie Porte, they selected Geraint Thomas, Ian Stannard and Luke Rowe to ride alongside Froome.
"We have a strong Classics influence in our Tour de France squad," added Froome. "The team performed well in the Classics this year and will help me get through the first nine days."
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