ALCUDIA, Mallorca (Reuters) - Tour de France champion Chris Froome mapped out lofty goals for the year on Tuesday, setting his sights on a remarkable treble of double Olympic gold and another triumphant ride into Paris.
The 30-year-old Briton, who claimed his second Tour de France victory last year, having also won it in 2013, will be favorite for a third in July, before heading to Rio de Janeiro’s lush coastline to contest the Olympic road race and time trial.
It sounds a tall order, but having completed a recce of Rio’s 256.4km road race route, which is littered with steep climbs and cobbles, he liked what he saw.
For Froome, the ultimate Grand Tour rider, the more difficult the terrain the better.
The road race takes place on Aug. 6 with the time trial, a hilly 60km dash, four days later and Froome said the quick turnaround will be no problem.
“When I rode Rio and looked at the TT (time trial) course, I thought ‘this is fantastic, I’d love the chance to get stuck into this TT’”, Froome told reporters at Team Sky’s media day in Puerto de Alcudia, Mallorca on Tuesday.
”I went and rode the road course the next day and just felt ‘if there’s a one-day course I could win, it would look something like this’.
”Having said that, it’s such a complicated thing, the Olympic road race. Teams of maximum five riders, 260km. You can’t rely on too much team work with four team mates.
“That amount of climbing. It’s almost every man for himself, almost like a junior race. It’s going to be a dramatic race when you look at the route. People are going to be on their hands and knees by the last two laps.”
Froome won a bronze medal in the time trial at London 2012, when former Team Sky colleague Bradley Wiggins took gold, having become Britain’s first Tour de France champion 10 days earlier.
“It would be lovely (to win gold),” Froome, who became a father for the first time just before Christmas, told reporters in the lobby of the seaside hotel commandeered by Team Sky for their daily training rides in the Tramuntana mountains.
”I was fortunate to get Olympic bronze in London. It felt massive even on the back of the Tour we’d had.
“It felt enormous. You almost can’t believe how overwhelming the Olympics are, bigger than just your sport.”
Froome says his first priority, however, is the Tour de France and trying to become the first person since Spain’s Miguel Indurain (winner from 1991-95) to retain the title, not counting disgraced American Lance Armstrong.
He says he is in a far better shape than in 2014, when his hopes of winning back-to-back Tours ended early in a painful crash on a rainy day in northern France.
That year his build-up was ruined by nagging injuries and illness, but those problems are now behind him and Froome says he cannot wait to start racing.
“A lot of people say ‘defending your title’ but I don’t feel that’s my mindset,” said Froome, whose Tour hopes have been boosted by the inclusion of two hilly time trials that will play into his hands.
”I don’t feel I am defending something. I am going to get something. It’s a different way to look at it. It helps with my motivation. If I compare where I am now to the start of 2014 after I won the previous Tour, I have more experience behind me.
“Two years in this leadership position. I feel a lot more at ease. I don’t feel the same level of pressure on my shoulders. The pressure is probably still there but I don’t feel it. I feel a lot more focused on the job at hand.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Toby Davis