ALCUDIA, Spain (VN) — Chris Froome (Team Sky) doesn’t want to be remembered as a one-off winner of the Tour de France.
Coming off a frustrating, crash-filled 2014 campaign, the 29-year-old is focusing on only one thing coming into this season, and that’s to regain his Tour de France crown. No Giro d’Italia, no talk of the triple crown. His season will be all about regaining the yellow jersey.
“After what happened last year, that means that I am coming into this season feeling even more eager to be in the best possible place at the start line for the Tour,” Froome said Sunday. “And be ready to go for the Tour.”
Froome’s title defense collapsed last summer in stage 4 on the day the Tour returned to France after three wild and emotional stages in the United Kingdom. An innocuous clip of wheels, and Froome’s hopes of defending his Tour crown came crashing down with him. A fractured wrist and hand made it impossible for him to continue, and following two more crashes the next day, he was out of the race.
“That was the hardest moment, in stage 4,” Froome said. “That’s bike racing. Crashing is part of the sport. Sometimes you’re going to come down … this year, I want to crash less, stay healthy, and be ready for the Tour.”
After some initial interest in the Giro d’Italia, Froome decided it was too risky to try to race the Italian grand tour or to take on the Giro-Tour double. Froome is content to leave that to archrival Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
“Given where I am right now in my career, given that I am 29, coming into the best years of my career, and given that the Tour is the biggest race for our team, it would be a loss to miss the Tour,” Froome told a small group of journalists Sunday. “If you’re realistically looking to win the Tour, [doing the Giro-Tour double], that’s a big ask. It’s a lot more realistic to race the Giro and then the Vuelta a España.”
Froome looked fresh and excited as he sat to chat with journalists who flew to Spain’s Mallorca island for a media day. The arrival of such new riders as Nicolas Roche, Wout Poels, and Leopold Konig only bolsters his confidence.
“There is a big buzz around the team right now,” Froome said. “Having those three guys in the pool of Tour de France riders means everyone’s getting stuck in, doing their work.”
Froome wouldn’t bite when asked if he was relieved there won’t be any questions this season about leadership at Team Sky, and only wished soon-to-be-retired Bradley Wiggins, who is returning to the track for a run at the gold medal in Rio 2016.
“Bradley and I are going on different paths,” Froome said diplomatically. “Bradley has chosen to return to the track; my ambitions remain with Team Sky. I am focused on stage races and grand tours. I wish him all the best with his future on the track and his new development team.”
Froome was also diplomatic when queried about Astana, which retained its WorldTour license despite a string of doping positives at the elite and development teams.
“It’s not for me, as a bike rider, to say if Astana should or should not have a WorldTour license,” he said. “I feel the pressure falls on the UCI. They need to have a clearer system in place that if a team has had multiple positives, as Astana has, that there are consequences for that. It’s not for me to decide that. It has to come from the UCI.”
For 2015, Froome said he’s “sticking to the basics,” and will keep to a tried-and-proven template on the road to the Tour. That means no exotic races (though he will return to South Africa to train at altitude later this month) and nothing that isn’t focused on being the best for the Tour.
He will debut at the Ruta del Sol in Spain in February, race Tirreno-Adriatico, and most likely Flèche Wallonne. The rest of his calendar remains a blank canvas, except for a very big circle around July.
“We’re all as hungry as ever. We are hungry for another success in the Tour de France,” he said. “Partly due to what happened last year, I am as motivated as ever.”