Froome Is Going To Be My Main Tour de France Rival Says Contador


by Greg Fraser

PARIS, Oct 25, 2012 (AFP) – The grueling climb-filled route that was
unveiled for next year’s Tour de France has set up the enthralling prospect of
an epic battle between odds-on favorites Chris Froome and Alberto Contador.

The Kenyan-born Froome, 27, finished runner-up behind British compatriot
Bradley Wiggins in last year’s Tour, while Spaniard Contador is hunting a
third Tour title after wins in 2007 and 2009 (with his 2010 victory struck
from the record books after he tested positive for clenbuterol).

Wiggins has admitted that Froome is now in the Team Sky hot seat for the
yellow jersey, and with four summit finishes scheduled for the 2013 Tour and
the distances of time-trials slashed, the soft-spoken rider who grew up in
South Africa has emerged as the more likely candidate to lead the British
team’s challenge.

“I do not know yet if I will be able to ride two big Tours, I will only be
able to seek one win and I have the Tour (de France) in mind,” said Froome.

“I think Bradley could be the leader on the Giro d’Italia and me on the
Tour. But we still have to wait for next year’s programs and talk about this
with the managers.”

Froome said he didn’t feel the Tour’s centenary edition was necessarily the
toughest it could have been.

“It’s not quite as hard as I expected it to be. For the 100th edition I was
expecting the organizers to go all-out in the mountains,” he said.

“There are definitely some challenging stages though – the Mont Ventoux and
Alpe d’Huez to name to name but a few.

“I like it; it’s a very testing circuit. The two time trials are around
30km each and then there are about four stages where the GC (general
classification) should be decided in the mountains. It’s going to be an
exciting race.

“The fact that it could go down to the last days is a nice twist, and for
the GC riders, that will always be something we have at the back of our minds.

“It’s not over until the very end and the Alpe d’Huez stage will be one of
the deciders, along with that brutal one up Mont Ventoux.”

Contador who finished more than 10 minutes ahead of Froome on last year’s
Tour of Spain when the British rider struggled badly during the second half of
the race, remains most pundits’ favorite, but the Spaniard also predicted
that the race would go down to the wire.

“It’s a well balanced route but it’s going to be wide open right to the end
and the final stages will be really spectacular,” said the 29-year-old Madrid
native.

“It’s going to be great for the fans because the end of the Tour will be at
altitude. We’ll have to see but I think it’s going to be very uncertain.”

Contador, however, was in no doubt over who posed his biggest threat for
the 2013 Tour which begins in Corsica on June 29 and culminates on July 21
with an evening finish on the Champs Elysees in Paris.

“It’s Froome I fear the most,” he said. “He’s very dangerous in the
mountains and he was the strongest climber this year.”

Defending champion Wiggins admitted that he was happy to help the Froome
cause and sacrifice his chances in order to concentrate on the other major
Tours.

“It’s more than likely that I’ll ride in a supporting role for Chris,” the
Olympic road time-trial champion said.

“I just want to be in a successful team and if that’s Chris (who is going
to be the leader) then so be it. He’ll have to grow some sideburns though.
“My objective will be the Giro.”

Among other challengers should be Australian Cadel Evans, who has fought
back from a virus that put paid to his 2012 Tour bid.

Evans became the first Australian to win the Tour in 2011 and stressed that
he was hoping to mount a stronger challenge than last year, when he could only
manage a seventh place finish, more than 15 minutes behind Wiggins.

“I hope to be back to top form by next June and this route is much more
suited to my qualities with a lot of variety,” said the 35-year-old.

“Who is the favorite? I hope it’s me!” he joked at the unveiling of the
new route.

“The third week has three or four very difficult stages which are going to
have a big impact on the final standings.”

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