Chris Froome has described the course of next year’s Tour de France as “brutal” with the four-time winner present at today’s launch in Paris alongside defending champion and Team Ineos colleague Egan Bernal.
Froome is targeting a record-equalling fifth yellow jersey next year and is back in training after the horrific injuries in a crash at the Criterium du Dauphiné in June which put him out of this year’s race.
“I think it’s a brutal Tour – probably the hardest I’ve seen in the last five or six years at least,” he said.
“It’s great – there’s loads of opportunities for the general classification to play out and the main rivals to go head to head.
“That’s what everyone wants to see. It should be an exciting race, hopefully it will live up the same standards as this year.
“There are no guarantees in sport but I’m going to give it everything I have.”
Speaking of his rehabilitation, he said: “Given the injuries I’ve had I think a lot of people would have seen that a career-ending crash.
“I’m extremely lucky to be where I am now. I just see it as such an amazing opportunity that I have ahead of me now, that we’re even talking about coming back for next year.”
He added: “I’m back on the bike now, so I get out for two or three hours most days. But I’m working quite hard off the bike as well, trying to improve the strength of the leg that I broke.”
Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford was also at the Palais du Congres today as the route was revealed, and said he doesn’t think he has ever seen Froome “so hungry and determined.”
Brailsford said: “He’s back training now and doing efforts.
“He’s still got a long way to go, there’s no doubt about that, but he’s on the right track.
“He’s very motivated and psychologically he’s very motivated, which is the most important thing. He hasn’t let it knock him back – if anything it’s made him stronger.”
He added: “He knows the roads down in Nice and that first block very well."
There is just one time trial stage in next year's race and it comes at La Planche des Belles Filles, where in 2012 Froome took his maiden Tour de France stage win on his way to finishing runner-up to Sky team-mate Sir Bradley Wiggins.
“It’s a hard, mountainous race," Brailsford said. "People are going to be really tired at the end of this race, so that final mountain time trial will be important.
“Somebody like Chris and the guys will be looking at that thinking ‘I can win that’.”
“It will be a really hard Tour de France,” said Bernal. It will be different without a team time trial and just one time trial, with an uphill finish.
“I think it will be a different Tour, one that people will really like, as I think there will be a lot of attacks in the final climbs.”
He added: “For me it’s a little bit better this time trial than if it was a flat one. I think specialists will also be good in this time trail – they know how to do a good time trial even if it is uphill. It’s still a time trial, but for me it’s better like this.”
2018 winner Geraint Thomas has indicated he may target the Giro d’Italia next year, and Team Ineos have also signed reigning champion Richard Carapaz.
The route of that race will be revealed in the coming days and Brailsford said: “Now we’ll take it away as always, look at the Giro course, look at [the] Vuelta as well.
“We’ll look at all of it and do a big analysis. We’ll look at our tactics, plans and who is going to do what throughout the season.
“It’s an enjoyable part of the job – it’s like a puzzle. By the middle to the end of November we’ll have our plan.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.