Chris Froome talks route, rivals, and teammates heading into 2017 Tour de France

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The 2017 Tour de France is just over a week away from beginning with an opening prologue in Dusseldorf, Germany. On Thursday, Team Sky issued an interview with reigning champion and three-time winner Chris Froome, who discussed varying topics such as the 2017 route, his main GC rivals, and the eight men backing him to take a fourth  victory.

On the Tour de France:

The Tour is a special race. It’s three weeks of racing under the most extreme circumstances. Everything is intensified.

You have to be able to deal with that pressure and expect the unexpected, like at Ventoux last year. That’s the Tour de France. It’s what makes the race what it is.

You know that there are going to be things that go against you in those three weeks, things that might be out of your control. Being able to cope with those under that pressure is a huge part of the challenge.

The Tour has given me memories that I’ll keep with me for the rest of my life. I can’t wait for it to start now. Honestly, I just love it. It’s a feeling that you don’t get from any other race.

Preparing for this year’s Tour de France:

My preparation has been going well. I’ve had a slow build up, but that was always part of the plan. I’ve got a busy summer ahead, obviously with the Tour de France being the main goal but also with the Vuelta a Espana afterwards as well, so there’s a lot of racing still to come.

Something that really helped me last year with the Tour, the Olympics and the Vuelta was to take a slower start to the season.

I have taken a much more relaxed start to the year. I haven’t done as many race days as I have in previous seasons. That will hopefully mean I’m going to be a lot fresher coming into this period, when I’ll be racing a lot.

To be honest, I’ve been enjoying my riding but also enjoying spending time with my family as well. It’s been really nice to be able switch off at times and spend some time at home. I think it’s been healthy for me and it gives me a good balance.

This year’s Tour de France route:

I don’t think this year’s course necessarily suits me as well as previous Tour de France courses have. I say that because of the lack of mountain top finishes and also the lack of time trial kilometres. Having said that, it means that it’s going to be a lot closer race and a lot more exciting for the fans.

Every Tour is a different race. I can’t just rely on what I did the year before. I have to always try to look to improve, try and look at upping my game.

I’m going to have to make sure I’m absolutely at my best and to take advantage of any situations out on the road.

Style of riding at last year’s Tour de France:

At the end of the day the goal is to win and it’s not necessarily about how you win. But if I look back at last year’s Tour and some of the gambles I took, and some of the risks I took in terms of going for it on the descent, going for it in the crosswinds with Peter Sagan on a flat stage which would typically be a bunch sprint, it does make things more exciting, even for me. It’s fun and it does bring the racing alive.

Key stages at this year’s Tour de France:

This year I think the real key stages are going to be the Izoard mountain top finish, which is the biggest mountain top finish in the Tour this year at over 2000 metres. It’s a massive climb. Stage Nine is also a hard stage with the final climb up Mont du Chat and descending down into Chambery – I think that’s going to be a key stage.

I don’t think this Tour will be won and lost on a single stage, but a combination of three weeks put together.

Rivals at this year’s Tour de France:

It’s difficult to name just one rival. Richie Porte is one of them, Nairo Quintana, Romain Bardet, who was second last year. You can never rule out Alberto Contador.

I’m certainly going to have my work cut out for me.

I think there are maybe a dozen riders who are in with a shot of winning the Tour this year, but I think my main rival is Richie.

I’ve said for a long time that Richie has got the potential to win the Tour de France, it’s just a matter of time until everything works out for him.

There are plenty of other guys who will be up there challenging for the overall win, though. I think the route really suits a rider like Bardet, and he showed last year that he has to be taken seriously. He’s definitely one of the guys to look out for.

I know Quintana’s always said he goes stronger in the second Grand Tour, so I expect he’ll come to the Tour very strong.

Aiming for a fourth Tour de France victory:

It would just be incredible to win a fourth Tour. A lot of people say it’s just another number, but each Tour to me tells a different story. Each Tour is unique. It’s a different battle in terms of getting that Yellow Jersey and then trying to hold on to it.

It’s such a big goal to go for my fourth Tour, it feels as if it’s an even greater achievement if I’m able to win four, so I have to work even harder to get there. That’s given me a lot of motivation.

I do want to try and be up there with the guys who have won multiple Tours. They are seen as part of Tour de France history, and it’s a goal for me to try and be up there with them.

Froome on his teammates

On Sergio Henao:

Sergio Henao is an amazing rider. He’s one of the most selfless guys on the team. He’s also someone who is usually riding for and doing a job for the team, but his ability… he won Paris Nice this year – it just shows what kind of calibre of rider he is.

He’s a great part of the group. It’s great to have him around.

On Vasil Kiryienka:

Kiry is just so strong and reliable. He will always take a race on for the team and you know exactly what you’re going to get from him. He’s one of those type of riders who every team needs.

He’s a great character to have around the team and just makes everybody laugh – you need people like that over the three weeks!

On Christian Knees:

Kneesy is another one of those riders who works so hard for the team and who will be a massive help in making sure we have numbers up at the front of the race.

He’s been with the team a long time now and has a lot of experience. You can always just rely on him to get the job done.

He’s been really strong this year and obviously having the race start in Germany this year is going to be special for him.

On Michal Kwiatkowski:

Kwiato had an amazing start to the year, winning Milan-San Remo and Strade Bianche. He’s in amazing shape and he’s another rider who is very versatile. He can really climb well when he needs to, he has a really good ‘Classics’ sense of positioning and of being in the right place at the right time.

I think he is one of those riders who can almost fit into any role within the team.

On Mikel Landa:

Mikel is one of the best climbers around, and he showed that at the Giro.

Obviously the Giro was tough for Mikel and Geraint with the crash in the first week, but Mikel showed real resilience to come back as strongly as he did in the final week.

He showed what good form he’s in and that will be a huge asset for the team at the Tour.

On Mikel Nieve:

Mikel Nieve is one of the most loyal domestiques in the peloton. He’s got so much talent himself and has won big mountain stages himself, which just shows his ability, but nine times out of 10 he’s working for someone else and sacrificing his own chances to help the team.

He’s just an amazing character. He’s so calm and is such a good part of the group. He’s just a genuinely nice guy.

On Luke Rowe:

Luke has a really important role in the team and he has been a big part of our success over the past two Tours.

He’s got such a good racing brain and when he has something to say about how we are going to approach a stage then you know it’s worth listening to.

This will only be his third Tour but he’s already one of those riders who is really well respected and just calmly goes about getting his job done.

On Geraint Thomas:

G is one of the most tenacious riders I know. A typical Welsh character! He’s just so versatile.

What he’s done in the last few years, going from the track, going to the Classics and now focusing more on stage racing, it’s amazing to see how he has evolved and he can literally now do anything he wants.

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