Tour de France: Chris Froome's 10 steps to the summit – and a steep learning curve
Chris Froome has already proved he has solid Tour de France form this season, with major stage wins in the Tour of Oman, Critérium International, Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné. Here are his 10 steps to Tour glory and Britain's second overall win in a row.
1. Stay out of trouble
No prologue time trial to decide an initial pecking order among the favourites; narrow, twisting roads; and everybody fresh, in tip-top condition and champing at the bit: the first three days in Corsica are likely to be chaotic. He must avoid crashes – and crashing.
2. Who's in his shadow?
Few people noticed when Chris Froome lost 85 seconds at Seraing on stage one of the 2012 Tour because of a puncture and slow wheel change. But that was one big factor which kept Bradley Wiggins at No 1 in the Sky Tour hierachy. Hopefully this time Froome will have a "shadow" – a Sky team-mate whose only duty is to stick to him like glue, and if there is a late puncture, give him his bike.
3. Get some team spirit
If Sky win the team time trial in Nice on stage four it will be an instant boost to morale for the rest of the race. And it could net Froome the yellow.
4. Don't be blowin' in the wind
The three first-week stages across southern France are all flat, windswept affairs – perfect for sudden ambushes that could see Froome or other contenders, if they are inattentive, in serious trouble.
5. The knockout blow
Assuming he follows the same plan as in the Tour's key warm-up race, the Critérium du Dauphiné, the stage 11 time trial to Mont Saint-Michel could see a first major sort-out, and Froome, second in both last year's time trials and bronze in the equivalent Olympic event, take yellow.
6. Handle the press well
The media circus is notoriously harsh – after years of doping scandals, any outstanding performance is treated suspiciously. Wiggins threw a wobbly in one press conference last year when asked about speculation over his own performance: Froome would be wise not to follow suit.
7. Climb every mountain
The 20km Mont Ventoux on stage 15 kicks off the toughest final week and – assuming he has taken the yellow in the time trial – Froome's rivals will be looking for any sign of unevenness in his climbing form. At the very least, a strong defensive ride is needed.
8. Jokers in the pack
Every year the Tour throws up at least one surprise package overall. Last year it was Froome himself, this year it could be the Colombian climbing genius Nairo Quintana or Birmingham-born Irishman Dan Martin. As favourites, the Sky team have the main responsibility for keeping them under control.
9. Handle Alpe d'Huez up and down
Cycling's most hallowed single climb – it's said that whoever leads at the top will be leading in Paris – but this time it has to be tackled twice. And a vicious technical and twisting descent in between could make it even worse.
10. Pass-Porte to glory?
Just as Froome helped out Wiggins in the 2012 Tour mountains, Australian Richie Porte's role in the Alps as Sky's "Plan B" will be crucial – both to shepherd Froome over the toughest climbs and, perhaps, to make a move and take second place on the podium for Sky for the second year running.
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