Chris Froome (Sky) knows he’s got his work cut out for him if he wants to join the five-win club at the Tour de France next summer.
“We’ve got a massive challenge ahead of us for next year,” Froome told Eurosport. “It’s a Tour de France that tests every aspect of cycling.”
Froome, 32, will line up next July as the five-star favorite. No rider has won four yellow jerseys without winning a fifth.
On Tuesday, after watching the official route presentation in Paris, Froome singled out the stage ending as at Alpe d’Huez as the “queen stage” for 2018.
“I think the ‘queen stage’ will be the Alpe d’Huez stage,” he said. “With 5,000 meters of climbing, that will be the biggest challenge of the Tour.”
The route features relatively few kilometers against the clock, which means the climbers will be licking their chops as they try to take down Froome and Team Sky’s dominance at the Tour. All the major climbs will be packed into the final half of the race, but Froome pointed to the dangers lurking in the first week.
Crosswinds, narrow roads, and the inclusion of 15 sectors of cobblestones in stage 9 mean that the race could be lost even before reaching the mountains. The only year Froome missed out on the Tour, in 2014, was when he crashed out in the first week.
“That’s going to make the Tour very nervous until we reach the Alps,” Froome said. “It will be a very nervous race. That region in the northwest part of France is known to be very windy. That will play a big part as well.”
Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford called the Tour route “balanced,” and said it will require a complete performance to win.
“It’s a very balanced route, and it will favor the most complete rider,” Brailsford said. “There’s a team time trial, there’s pavé, stages with a lot of wind, mountains, including one that’s only 65km. It’s a route that favors a complete rider, but it’s clear there are more mountains than time trials.”
Hot off winning the Tour and Vuelta a España in consecutive fashion this season, Froome was awarded the Velo d’Or prize as the best rider in 2017 on Tuesday as well.