Chris Froome has denied that winning the Tour automatically puts riders at a disadvantage when trying to repeat that victory the following year – although the British rider has recognised that his racing as defending champion has heightened both the sense of expectation surrounding him and the obligations he has to face.
Since 2006, no rider has managed to defend their Tour de France victory, but Froome said in a press conference that he disagreed that if you win the Tour once then you’re spent for years to come.
“I do believe there are added pressures coming back as the defending champion. You definitely have a lot more on your plate,” he reflected.
“Life definitely changes after winning the Tour. That’s probably a bigger factor.”
Second in 2012 behind team-mate Sir Bradley Wiggins and then a winner himself in 2013, Froome recognised, too, that his rivals will be giving him a closer run for his money in 2014.
“Alberto [Contador – his top challenger] has shown he’s definitely in a much more competitive position this year than he was last year. His run up to the Tour has been a lot smoother and he’s managed to get a lot more results.”
Froome also recognised that the route’s complex structure – with three separate segments of mountain climbing in the Vosges, Alps and Pyrenees –and a stage across the dreaded cobbled roads of northern France would make for an unpredictable race.
“I will say I’m going to give it absolutely everything. [But] It’s not going to be a walk in the park,” he concluded.
Froome’s team manager, Sir Dave Brailsford, argued both that the Tour’s Grand Depart in Yorkshire was another confirmation that Britain had become a cycling nation, and that although there were only four British riders this year, “it’s notable that two different British riders have won the Tour in the last two years.”