PARIS: Tour de France organisers unveiled a 2017 course light on mountain climbs but reigning champion Chris Froome insisted yesterday they would still be key to his bid for a fourth title.
The visually spectacular 104th race over 3,516km starts in Dusseldorf, Germany on July 1 with the traditional time trial. There are five real mountain stages, fewer than in 2016.
“This Tour will be won in the mountains, the time trials are too small to have any real effect,” said Froome, winner in 2013, 2015 and 2016.
Tour Director Christian Prudhomme said the route “has been designed to be won by a true champion”, without naming Froome or identifying any other favourites.
Puncher Dan Martin said he felt the route brought him into the picture.
“There’s plenty of scope for damage every single day. You have to survive,” said the Irishman. “This route is better suited to my style than previous years.”
The opening 13km time trial offers world champion time-triallist Tony Martin the chance to clinch the yellow jersey on stage one as the Tour starts from his native Germany for the first time in 30 years.
The northern start means the route has to be ‘J’ shaped, and this year misses the north and west of France entirely, said Prudhomme.
With nine varied flat stages, five hilly ones designed to open up the challenge, the five real mountain stages are designed to have a visual backdrop which will amplify the exploits of the athletes who excel there.
And if the crucial penultimate day’s time trial starting at the Marseille Velodrome football stadium is only 23km long, it will be run in searing heat and feature a 1km stretch at 18% gradient.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 19th, 2016.
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