Last week (before we knew Bradley Wiggins wouldn’t be taking part in the Tour de France) I was fortunate to accompany Nice-Matin journalist Romain Laronche to an interview with Sky’s Chris Froome. He’s kindly given me permission to reproduce the interview in English. Here’s the first part – the rest follows later this afternoon.
Romain: We’re just under a month from the start of the Tour de France. How are you feeling?
Chris: I’m feeling really good at the moment – both in training and in the races I’ve done up until now. [I would too if I’d won the Tours of Oman and Romandie and the Criterium International – Ed.] It’s been a really good start to the season.
Romain: It’s not the same for you as at this time last year. Are you feeling the pressure this time around?
Chris: I definitely feel that there’s a lot of added pressure, particularly coming into the Tour as one of the favourites, but it’s something I’ve come to accept. The team has a lot of belief in me and all my teammates are behind me, so I’m in a good position.
Romain: The fact that Dave Brailsford has publicly reaffirmed you’re the leader for the Tour must have given you additional confidence?
Chris: Definitely! After the Tour route was revealed in October last year the team said to me that if everything goes according to plan and you arrive in top condition for the Tour then it’ll be the best solution to have you as the leader. I think the way the season has gone so far – we have done everything correctly in the races building up to the Tour – confirms that the team has made the right decision.
Romain: Bradley Wiggins had spoken about the possibility of doing the Giro/Tour double. What did you make of this?
Chris: I think that Bradley was potentially feeling a lot of pressure from being the leader last year. Having won the Tour he felt that he should be defending his title this year. But all along the message from the team has been clear: his goal was to focus on the Giro d’Italia and mine was on the Tour de France. And we’re on track for that, nothing has changed. The team is still behind me for the Tour and I’m quite sure that Bradley will support whatever decision the team makes. If he’s coming to the Tour this year, I’m expecting he will be ready to support for me.
Romain: How would you describe your relationship with Bradley?
Chris: I don’t get to see him all that often as he lives in the UK and I live here in Monaco. We don’t go out for dinner or do anything socially together but, maybe like anyone in a corporate environment, we’re colleagues. We’ll both do what’s required of us, we’re both professionals and we’ll get on with the job.
Romain: We’ve just left Alexandre Vinokourov. He sends you his greetings and has tipped you as his favourite – not Alberto Contador or any of the others – to win the Tour.
Chris: Okay, that’s a compliment coming from someone like him – a really nice compliment – and I’m happy to hear that.
Romain: So do you think the Tour will be a duel between you and Contador?
Chris: I definitely hope I’ll be in that position and obviously Contador‘s a major threat. There’s going to be quite a few guys to watch out for but I think Contador has to be my strongest opposition. He’s already won the Tour de France. He’s won grand tours before and he knows just how to prepare himself for them. He’s definitely got the mentality to fight all the way until the finish just as we saw in last year’s Vuelta.He won’t accept that someone else will win it. It’s going to be a hard battle. I don’t expect it to be easy. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I think the other two Spanish guys, [Alejandro] Valverde and [Joaquim] Rodriguez, from the Vuelta last year are going to be strong and also [Nairo] Quintana from Colombia. In the mountains, he’s certainly going to be someone to watch.
Romain: So in your team there’s you, Richie Porte, Rigoberto Uran, Sergio Henao, Bradley Wiggins … is it an advantage to have such a deep pool of talent?
Chris: It’s definitely an advantage to have so many guys who can win races. We don’t know yet who’s going to be in the Tour de France team. But take someone like Richie Porte, he won Paris-Nice and to have him there to help me in the mountains puts me in a so much better position. The fact that he could potentially be riding GC himself may also be useful to the team. If he’s up there on GC, it gives us another card to play. Contador wouldn’t only have to worry about me but also Richie. We could maybe use that to our advantage.
Romain: Long term is it a viable proposition to have so many leaders?
Chris: I think so. In a sport like cycling there are so many races. You can be a leader one day and the next day you’re helping your teammates. That’s normal, that’s cycling. I’ve been very lucky this year that I’ve been going to all the races as the leader. But I’m quite sure that even this season I’ll be going to other races to work for someone else. You always get your opportunity. If you show you’re strong enough to win a race, the team will support you.
Romain: To be Tour team leader you must demonstrate that you have the ability?
Chris: Obviously, but something like the Tour de France is a bit special because it’s a race that maybe everyone wants to win. However, this year I’m quite sure I have the full support of the team.
Check back later for part two of the interview when Chris chats more about the Tour and his life in Monaco.