The de­fend­ing cham­pion and three-time win­ner tells us about his be­lief that he can add an­other ti­tle to his col­lec­tion this year


You re­ported a mi­nor back in­jury after the Tour de Ro­mandie. About 10 days later you were in­volved in a hit and run in­ci­dent at home. Are there any lin­ger­ing ef­fects from these prob­lems you’ve had to work through?

Not re­ally. The in­ci­dent with the mo­torist was pretty scary, but I came away com­pletely un­scathed, luck­ily, and in the Tour de Ro­mandie I got an in­jury in my lower back. I’ve been work­ing pretty hard off the bike to get that sorted, in the gym, and I’m pretty glad I’m on top of it.

Your hit and run, Scar­poni’s death - there have been some very high pro­file in­ci­dents in­volv­ing riders and cars...

I think these kind of in­ci­dents have been hap­pen­ing more and more and there have been some re­ally se­ri­ous ones, like the tragic deaths of Michele and also more re­cently, Nicky Hay­den. It’s draw­ing at­ten­tion to how dan­ger­ous rid­ing on the road can be and high­light­ing the rift be­tween riders and mo­torists that arises from cy­cling be­com­ing such a pop­u­lar sport now. I think for me, in the past few years, the last cou­ple of months build­ing up to the Tour I’m even more con­scious and look­ing over my shoul­der to see if there’s a driver ea­ger to get past you. It’s a shame it’s at the stage where it is now, but some­times it takes a se­ri­ous in­ci­dent like that to make peo­ple sit up and think about what they’re do­ing on the road, both cy­clists and mo­torists.

Your build-up this year has fol­lowed a tra­di­tional pat­tern. Where is your form a cou­ple of weeks out from the Dauphiné in re­la­tion to pre­vi­ous years?

Ev­ery year has been dif­fer­ent but I feel as if right now I’m on track, I’m where I need to be for July and the rest of the sum­mer. With the Olympics and the Vuelta last year, I felt that it worked to take a slower ap­proach to ease in and I’ve taken a sim­i­lar ap­proach this year. I’ve been en­joy­ing rid­ing my bike and en­joyed be­ing a dad as well. My son Kel­lan is at an age where he’s want­ing to get out and ex­plore the world so it’s been good for me as well.

There are only three sum­mit fin­ishes in the Tour de France this year and only 37km of time tri­alling. In terms of riders, who does it suit?

The way that I look at it, ev­ery year, what­ever route they throw at us, you have to try and adapt to it. Some­times it will suit some riders more and I’d say this year the course doesn’t suit me as much as last year’s did. But hav­ing said that, I still feel con­fi­dent about my chances. It’s the hard­est Tour on pa­per for me to win com­pared to the other three. With fewer moun­tain top fin­ishes and con­sid­er­ably less time tri­alling, it cer­tainly leaves the race more open. It’s prob­a­bly a Tour that needs to be ‘raced’, if that makes sense. You can’t just sit back and wait. It’s maybe a lit­tle bit like the Giro in that you’ve got to come up with a plan and find a way to tech­ni­cally get ahead of your ri­vals given there aren’t that many op­por­tu­ni­ties on pa­per. You’ve got to be more in­no­va­tive in your race strat­egy and see what’s thrown our way on the road, what weather and wind con­di­tions are like and make the best of the sit­u­a­tion.

Could a sit­u­a­tion like Formi­gal in the Vuelta a Es­paña last year where Sky was caught off guard and am­bushed hap­pen in the Tour?

In the Vuelta it was one of those mo­ments where cer­tainly from my point of view my guard was down. And yeah…we had a very dif­fer­ent team at the Vuelta com­pared to what we’d nor­mally send to the Tour de France. I find it hard to see some­thing like that hap­pen­ing again …but then again it could hap­pen. We were caught out in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion in the Tour of Cat­alo­nia, but I cer­tainly wouldn’t fore­see that hap­pen­ing in the Tour de France.

A char­ac­ter­is­tic tac­tic of Sky’s is to ride a strong pace on the front to dis­cour­age at­tacks. Can it be de­ployed in the same way on a more open course?

I think that rid­ing hard on the front is an ef­fec­tive strat­egy once you’re in the yel­low jer­sey but the chal­lenge of get­ting to that point is where I think the onus is re­ally on me to take those op­por­tu­ni­ties in the first place.

In the first two Tours you won you laid down a marker on the first moun­tain top fin­ish. Could the same im­pact be made at La Planche des Belles Filles?

It’s not a very long climb but hav­ing said that it is steep and it is the per­fect test to see ex­actly where ev­ery­one’s at. So it’s def­i­nitely an im­por­tant stage both from a phys­i­cal point of view and the men­tal bat­tle be­tween the GC guys. It’ll be one of the key mo­ments and given it’s one of the three up­hill fin­ishes it’s go­ing to be quite a cru­cial day.

At the Giro, Nairo Quin­tana is cur­rently trail­ing Tom Du­moulin, so do you think that makes Quin­tana more or less of a threat at the Tour?

Quin­tana said that he feels strong­est in his sec­ond Grand Tour of the sea­son, so we’ll have to wait and see. Du­moulin has def­i­nitely taken a step up in his climb­ing and his time tri­alling has al­ways been pretty amaz­ing so he’s re­ally shap­ing up into the ul­ti­mate GC con­tender.

You see him as a fu­ture Tour win­ner?

A lot de­pends on fu­ture routes. If the or­gan­is­ers keep on tak­ing out time trial kilo­me­tres that’s less in Du­moulin’s favour. But look­ing at the im­prove­ments he’s made in the last two years he’s ob­vi­ously shed a lot of the weight, he’s kept the power, he paces him­self well on the climbs, he keeps his cool when the likes of Quin­tana ride away on the climb and he rides at a pace that suits him. He’s the only GC rider I’ve seen do­ing that. I think he can be a big GC ri­val in the Tour

in the fu­ture.

You don’t share Quin­tana’s feel­ing of get­ting stronger in a sec­ond Grand Tour?

Not at all. I’ve al­ways felt at the Vuelta I’m ba­si­cally hold­ing on to what­ever form I had at the Tour. Each to their own. If that’s how he feels and it’s worked for him then fine. But I’ve al­ways felt less pre­pared.

Last year, you said you weren’t in­ter­ested in chas­ing records, but now you’ve got three Tour wins, has that at­ti­tude shifted?

Yeah, I’d have to ad­mit…I have to say it’s prob­a­bly be­cause I’m asked so much about it. But yes, it is more of a thing for me now, just think­ing about my place in the sport. I’m in a very priv­i­leged po­si­tion with three Tour wins and the fact that I even have the pos­si­bil­ity to get up there with the Grand Tour greats like Indurain and Mer­ckx. I’d love to get there but I know I have to take it one year at a time. I can’t be think­ing about five un­til I’ve got num­ber four.

I'd say that this year the course doesn't suit me as much as last year's did but I still feel con ident about my chances

I have to take it one year at a time. I can't be think­ing about num­ber ive un­til I've got num­ber four

Are you ex­pect­ing brick­bats to be thrown at Sky after the rev­e­la­tions from the Par­lia­men­tary in­quiry?

I don’t think any of that has been aimed in my di­rec­tion so per­son­ally I don’t feel any pres­sure in that re­spect. I think that in terms of the whole in­ves­ti­ga­tion and all the al­le­ga­tions that have been brought up, those only con­cern a few peo­ple and most aren’t even part of the team any more. It doesn’t fea­ture on most of our radars. It’s a thing for the man­agers of the team and the PR guys. The rest of us are crack­ing on with what we’re meant to be do­ing.

Could Geraint Thomas’s crash out of the Giro bol­ster the squad for the Tour?

I’ve not spo­ken to G much and I might have to an­swer that ques­tion in a cou­ple of weeks when we know how he is. We all know he could do pretty much whichever role he wants. At the mo­ment, he could be a back-up GC rider, a great sup­port rider for me in the moun­tains. He can play pretty much any role. We’ll just have to see how he re­cov­ers from his in­juries.

Very dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios, but com­mis­saires made an in­ter­ven­tion when you came off on Ven­toux due to ex­ter­nal cir­cum­stance. Just gen­er­ally, do you think com­mis­saires should be in­ter­ven­ing more in races?

It’s al­ways a dif­fi­cult call. Each sce­nario is very dif­fer­ent. It ba­si­cally comes down to dis­cre­tion and how the com­mis­saires think the race has been af­fected. Ob­vi­ously in my case it was one kilo­me­tre to go and the break had al­ready been formed. At the end of the day we are at the mercy of the com­mis­saires and I think it’s a huge shame for the race when the re­sult of a race is af­fected [by ex­ter­nal cir­cum­stances]. We’re left here won­der­ing where Geraint would be ev­ery day. It’s some­thing at the fore­front of ev­ery­one’s mind right now, safety on the roads. I think the CPA (the pro­fes­sional riders’ union] is push­ing hard.

Froome's tac­tics in the moun­tains tend to rely on a strong de­fen­sive role for his Sky team

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