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“First of all I have to get fit. It’s impossible to say,” said Froome, when asked if he will be at the 2020 “grand départ” in Nice. “Nothing is decided.”
The four-time Tour winner is still in recovery after a crash at a stage recon in the 2019 Criterium du Dauphine, an accident that left him with a whole list of serious injuries, including a broken femur. The Brit has had a small limp as he strode onto the stage at the presentation of the 2020 Tour route on Tuesday.
Froome and his teammate and 2019 Tour de France champion Egan Bernal have both expressed an interest in racing the 2020 Tour, though the question of who would play the lead role in that situation hasn’t been addressed. And then there’s 2018 winner Geraint Thomas as well.
“As far as I’m concerned, I need to get up to the right level before we even start talking about who will be the [Ineos] leader or that kind of thing,” Froome said.
“There are eight months left,” said the Brit, who is still awaiting surgery to remove a pin from his hip. “I still need two or three months to correct the weaknesses inherited from my fall. But I hope, in a few months, to find the level I had last season. The Tour will be an enormous source of motivation.”
The 22-year-old defending champion Bernal was also at Tuesday’s presentation, and he too remained tight-lipped over the question of where Ineos will send its stars.
“It does look like a good course for me, but I can’t just come here without talking to the team and deciding which of the riders is best suited to which Tour,” he said. “I have an open mind. Maybe it’ll be Giro-Tour, maybe Giro-Vuelta — anything is possible.”
Bernal recently said that he will be waiting to see the Giro d’Italia route, revealed at the end of October, before he confirms his plans.
Team Ineos principal Dave Brailsford, the mastermind of seven Tour de France victories, told AFP on the sidelines of the unveiling that he felt undaunted by the route.
“I wouldn’t really call it that mountainous, for me it’s more hilly and if you look at it, the difficulties are spread out over the three weeks,” said the 55-year-old Brailsford, who last month revealed he had undergone surgery for prostate cancer.
“We have a brilliant team for this Tour with strength in depth and we can’t wait,” he said.
One rider definitely not riding with the aim of winning the yellow jersey is Julian Alaphilippe. The Frenchman lit up the 2019 Tour, winning on all terrain and holding the yellow jersey for 14 stages.
The Frenchman announced on his Deceuninck-Quick-Step team’s website that, “I won’t go for the general classification, as next season I will have other goals,” referring to the Tokyo Olympics, which start the week after the Tour wraps up.
The Tour won’t be entirely denied Alaphilippe’s flair and aggressive racing however, and presumably will set his sights on stage wins or another King of the Mountains jersey, a prize he won in 2018.
“I can’t wait to be at the start in Nice,” he said. “It is a parcours that I like, with many new climbs, which will make the race more interesting and spectacular, but at the same time, harder.”