Saturday 17 March 2018

Froome: I'm ready to replace Bradley Wiggins as Tour champ

Matt McGeehan

Chris Froome believes he is ready to succeed Bradley Wiggins as Tour de France champion and has backed his Team Sky colleague to respond from the disappointment of relinquishing his title without a fight.

Froome was runner-up as team-mate Wiggins became the first British winner of the Tour last summer and is now firm favourite in the absence of the four-time Olympic champion, who has been ruled out of a title defence with a knee injury.


Ahead of the start of the 100th Tour in Corsica on June 29, the 28-year-old assessed his prospects from across the Mediterranean in Nice, near his Monaco home.


Froome, who has won four leading races this season, told Press Association Sport: "I'm nervous, but quietly confident, though.


"I've got a fantastic team around me, both on and off the bike.


"So far this year I feel we've ticked all the right boxes in the build up to the Tour de France.


"Winning those races in their own respect - those are not small races - has given me a lot of confidence.


"It has given team-mates around me a lot of confidence in my ability to lead the team.


"But more importantly it's given me the opportunity to be in this position to start getting used to start answering more questions to the press and having to deal with the different pressures which come with being the leader."


Froome witnessed Wiggins dealing with those pressures in 2012.


Twelve months on, Wiggins is training in Majorca with his season's goals to be revised after his failure to finish the Giro d'Italia, a race he began as favourite but ended with a chest infection and knee complaint.


September's Road World Championships time-trial is his likely new goal.


Froome has sympathy for Wiggins' plight, from annus mirabilis in 2012 to the opposite a year on.


Froome added: "He wanted to focus on the Giro d'Italia this year - unfortunately that didn't go to plan. I'm sure he'll bounce back and be targeting other races for later on in the season.


"We're not just talking about some neo-pro. He's the guy who won the Tour de France last year. He knows what he's doing and I have no doubt he'll be back."


With no Mark Cavendish and no Wiggins, Team Sky's goals are simple: Win with Froome.


The eight riders to support Froome will be revealed later this week, with Australian Richie Porte a key lieutenant and roles for Olympic team pursuit champions Geraint Thomas and Peter Kennaugh likely.


"Having Brad would have added a huge element to the strength of the team, but I do believe we've got all our bases covered with the riders we do have," Froome said.


"We do have a very clear objective this year to go for the yellow jersey and we won't be thinking of the element of having Cavendish (a sprinter) there any more.


"I guess in that way it is a good thing."


Wiggins will be 34 at his next birthday with his future questioned in some quarters, but Froome considers he himself is entering the prime of his life.


"As a career goal, I would like to try and target the Tour for the next six, seven years, which I believe to be my peak years," he added.


"I believe I'm coming into my prime right now.


"If I can win one Tour I'd be ecstatic with that, I'd be really happy. For now we're going to focus on this one coming up and hopefully give that one everything."


But Froome revealed he has to stop himself thinking about the maillot jaune, Paris and standing on top of the podium by the Champs-Elysees on July 21.


"I've started thinking about it and quickly stopped myself," Froome said.


"I don't think it's something I should spend too much time thinking about.


"If I do find myself in that position, then I'll start thinking about it.


"For now I'm just focusing on the racing aspect and just focusing on getting there."

Press Association

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