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Changing up his racing programme despite a successful 2015 season, Chris Froome and Team Sky have announced that the two-time Tour de France winner will begin his season at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour.
The Briton will travel to Australia prior to the start on Wednesday February 3, becoming the first Tour de France champion to ride the race. His Team Sky squad will also be making its debut in the event.
“I’m really pleased to start my 2016 season at the Jayco Herald Sun Tour,” he stated. “Victoria is a beautiful part of the world and racing in the warm climate will give me a good platform for the new season.
“We don’t often get a chance to race in front of our Aussie fans so we’re all looking forward to seeing them over there as well.”
The race will begin on February 3 with a 2.1 kilometre prologue and will conclude on Sunday February 7 with the uphill stage to Arthur’s Seat.
Froome previously rode the race back in 2008 as a 23 year old. Racing with the Barloworld team, he placed second on the stage to Mount Buller and was fourth overall.
In recent years he has tended to begin his season slightly later, riding the Vuelta a Andalucia/Ruta Del Sol in 2011, the Volta ao Algarve in 2012, the Tour of Oman in 2013 and 2014, and returning to Andalucia this year.
He has twin goals of the Tour and the Olympics in 2016.
According to former Australian pro Baden Cooke, the news is a major coup for the race. However he also sees a logic too it.
“When you think about it, it’s really not that surprising that he’s coming,” he told the Herald Sun. “He’s ridden the race before and had a good experience with how well-run it is and even the big guys, they’ve got to start their season somewhere.
“I know (Alberto) Contador and (Vincenzo) Nibali are going to the Tour de San Luis in Argentina so you’ve got to do a few smaller races as a build-up. I’m pretty happy Chris has chosen to come here.”
Cooke was a team-mate of Froome’s at the time, and said that his runner-up slot on Mount Buller gave a glimpse of his talent.
“He was just another dude on the team who hadn’t really done anything amazing,” he said. “You’ve got to remember he was about 10kg heavier then and I was like ‘Holy s**t, you go all right’.
“Then he went and lost about 10kg and as it turns out, he can climb exceedingly well.”
The Jayco Herald Sun Tour is Australia’s oldest stage race and is ranked 2.1 on the UCI calendar. Precise details of the route are due to be unveiled on Tuesday, but it is thought to be 540 kilometres in length. Gippsland, Moe, Traralgon and Inverlock are expected to feature.