The Tour de France kicks off in Dusseldorf, Germany on Saturday, July 1. In the lead-up to the Grande Boucle, we’ll be counting down the top-10 GC contenders this week.
Three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome is well aware that the image of the yellow jersey running up Mont Ventoux will be the enduring moment of the 2016 Tour. No bother for the Brit. He is already starting to cast an eye toward joining the race’s five-time champions.
With help from our friends at L’Equipe, we caught up with the defending champion to talk about his memories of 2016, his greatest rivals, and what he expects from this year’s course.
What is your strongest memory of the 2016 Tour de France?
The moment that remains imprinted in my memory and, I think, in that of anyone who is interested in the Tour de France is the Mont Ventoux stage and the chaos that followed the crash that Richie Porte, Bauke Mollema, and I had when we hit a motorcycle. I’m not about to forget that incident. Afterwards, the race commissaires gave me the same time as Mollema, making an exceptional decision in circumstances that were equally exceptional. In hindsight, I still think it was appropriate and just, from a sporting perspective, even though the days that followed showed that I didn’t depend on that moment to win.
The images of you taking to your feet and running will go down forever in the history of the Tour.
Yes, I’m constantly reminded of it. I realized the impact of this image when I met fans in Australia, South Korea, and Japan during the off-season and shared some really nice moments on the bike with them. You don’t often see a cyclist running. I’ve seen those photos turning up in magazines, on the Internet, etc. I’ve also seen some imaginative comments, such as those from the organizers of a 10-kilometer running race in Spain who invited me to take part. I can laugh now, but it was a moment of pure madness. I quickly realized that my bike wasn’t in working order and I knew that my team car was a long way behind. And I didn’t even slip when I was running, despite the cleats on the soles of my shoes!
What else do you recall about the 2016 race?
The two stages on which I had the most fun: the descent towards Bagnères-de-Luchon, which was something different and unexpected for many people, and a few days later, on the road into Montpellier, when I escaped with Peter Sagan in the crosswinds. On that occasion, I didn’t win the stage, but I loved that moment.
It was pure instinct and quite different from the image that Team Sky presents the rest of the time. Was there nothing premeditated about it?
No. I was lucky enough to get this opportunity because the night before that second Pyrenean stage I had a 54-tooth chainring put on instead of the usual 53, which came about when Nicolas Portal, my team director, showed me a map and stressed that the descent from Val Louron-Azet wasn’t all that technical and would be done at high speed on long straights. I foresaw the possibility of having to get back across to Nairo Quintana if he had distanced me on the climb. But the urge to attack came to me just as I went over the summit.
And what about the stage to Montpellier?
Peter Sagan made the first move. I saw him go and said to myself: “Why not, I have nothing to lose? I must go for it.” In hindsight, I’m really pleased that I had the guts to go on the offensive rather than sitting back and waiting to defend my yellow jersey. It’s the kind of cycling that many would like to see every day, but it’s rarely possible. It’s true that Team Sky’s most common tactic is to impose a tempo at the front of the peloton that discourages my rivals from attacking me. This doesn’t necessarily produce the best spectacle but, from our point of view, it is the ideal way to keep events under control.