- Tour de France
Froome's Tour de France cobble fears realised
Chris Froome saw his fears confirmed as the route for the 101st edition of the Tour de France was released in Paris on Wednesday.
Froome will kick off the defence of his Tour title in Yorkshire with the Grand Départ in Leeds on July 5. However several obstacles stand in his way, with stretches of dangerous cobbled roads in northern France and a crossing of the Vosges mountains. There is also only one time trial, a discipline Froome excels in, before the 3,656km race finishes in Paris on July 27.
Froome, who was present in Paris, said: "The cobblestones are something we are going to have to prepare for specifically and look at very carefully at how we minimise the risks. There are accidents and mechanical problems that could happen.
"I like [the route]. It's challenging and it has got a bit of everything. With five hilltop finishes, that makes it in my eyes harder than last year's Tour de France.
"The mountain days and time trial would be my strengths. The way I see it, there is no reason why I shouldn't be able to stay with the all the GC [general classification] contenders on the cobbles, but I wouldn't expect myself to be able to follow the likes of Fabian Cancellara and Tom Boonen."
In commemoration of the centenary of the First World War, Stage Five will start in Ypres and finish in Arenberg-Porte du Hainault after nine cobbled sections totalling 15.4km which could cause carnage.
"Uncertainty is part of the competition," Tour director Christian Prudhomme said. "It would not make sense to avoid the cobbles when we go through northern France."
The Tour starts in Great Britain for only the second time, after a send-off from London in 2007, with stage finishes in Harrogate and Sheffield. The race then switches to Cambridge for day three before heading towards London via Essex and Hertfordshire, with a finish on the Mall. From there the riders will fly to northern France.
Stage Nine moves the race from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles, with this year's edition following a clockwise route around the French Hexagone, much like in 2012 when Sir Bradley Wiggins triumphed as the first British winner of the Tour de France. Wiggins' teammate Froome was victorious at La Planche des Belles Filles on the first summit finish, as Wiggins moved into the overall lead, which he held all the way to the Arc de Triomphe.
Stage 14, the final day in the Alps, will see the race move from Grenoble to Risoul, with the potential winners most likely starting to make themselves known.
The last of the three days in the Pyrenees, and the final mountain stage, will take place over Pau to Hautacam in Stage 18. Those weaker in the time trial will need to get some vital seconds on their rivals. The penultimate stage will take place between Bergerac and Perigueux and could potentially define the race. It is the only time trial stage, and is a lengthy 54km.
Froome added: "It was a very special day for me winning at La Planches des Belles Filles. I will get a special feeling going back there again next year.
"It is going to be the first summit finish again, which it was last time, and I think that always marks quite an important day for the GC riders.
"I think there is enough time trialling, especially with the one time trial being over 50km. That is definitely going to sort the race out. It is predominantly flat, it is long, and there could be big time gaps there as well."
Also in attendance was Mark Cavendish, who is relishing the Grand Départ because of his family ties to Yorkshire.
"I started my first Tour de France in London and to go back to the UK for the start of the race for the second time in my career is a big, big thing," he said.
"To do it as well in my mother's home county of Yorkshire is an honour. The first stage finishes in my home town, so a lot of my family will be there. We have an apartment literally 50 metres from the stage finish. I used to stay there two or three times a year as a child."
And Cavendish will have a chance to take the yellow jersey for the first time with the opening stage set to end in a bunch sprint.
He added: "It is the second opportunity in my career to go for the yellow jersey. Obviously, I missed it this year, so I would like to try it again with the stage win.
"Ultimately I want a successful week at home before we go back into France and carry on for the remaining two weeks."
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