Posted by Uong Jowo Monday, October 28, 2013
Britain's Chris Froome must successfully navigate a number of traps lurking around a tricky 2014 Tour de France route if he is to retain his title in cycling's most prestigious stage race.
Starting in northern England on July 5, the Tour features stretches of cobbled roads in northern France, a treacherous crossing of the Vosges mountains and only one time trial - a favourite discipline of Team Sky leader Froome. "Uncertainty is part of the competition," Tour director Christian Prudhomme told reporters when asked about the cobbled sections, which could turn the fifth stage into a lottery.
"It would not make sense to avoid the cobbles when we go through northern France," he added.
But Froome told reporters: "If you know a rider who likes the cobbles, you tell me."
Team Sky sports director Nicolas Portal told Reuters: "It's an interesting route, anything can happen, we'll have to be careful. It's good for the pure climbers. They (the organisers) made it spicier.
"It is going to be an intense battle every day on every terrain."
Asked if Froome should fear the cobbles, Portal replied: "Even though he does not have a beautiful style on the bike, Chris is rarely on the ground. He knows how to handle his bike."
Prudhomme said the 2014 Tour would pay its respects to those who died in World War One as the peloton will ride on the Chemin des Dames and Verdun where many battles took place a century ago.
"I'd like to see Bradley Wiggins there," International Cycling Union (UCI) president Brian Cookson told a media briefing.
Wiggins won the 2012 race but sat out of this year's edition through injury and it is unclear whether he will take part in the 2014 Tour along with team mate Froome.
"It will keep the media guessing in speculation," said Cookson.
Should Froome cope with the 15 km of cobbles spread out over nine sections, where his rivals will hope to catch the Team Sky juggernaut off guard on a terrain unlikely to suit them, the Briton will then need to combat three mountain ranges.
They will start in the Vosges, with the 10th stage being "a real mountain stage where the best GC (general classification) riders should fight", according to Prudhomme.
The stage ends at the top of the Planche des Belles Filles, where Froome triumphed last year.