NICE, France (Reuters) - Winning the Tour de France is about mastering the surroundings as much as riding the bike, a maxim that Chris Froome fully grasps as he prepares for a maiden win in the world’s greatest cycling race.
The Briton was second overall to team mate Bradley Wiggins last year but was promoted to team leader this season even before his compatriot withdrew because of health concerns.
With Wiggins out of the picture, Froome will at least be relieved that he does not have to answer the leadership question anymore.
“If you look at the team time trial and what he could have brought there and also in the mountains as a support rider he would have been really helpful for me but in terms of who is going to be the leader within the team that’s not even a question for us,” Froome told reporters on Tuesday.
“But it’s something the press would always be hopping on so it will be nice not to have to answer that question in the Tour this year.”
Froome, who has won four of the five stage races he has entered this season, said leading a Tour de France team was a novelty for him.
“On the Tour de France, everything is on a different level, the hype around the race, the spectators, the competitors, everyone is there with their A game,” he said.
It includes the media, who scrutinise every little twist and turn on and off the road, and last year, Wiggins snapped during a news conference, going into a foul-mouthed rant against those on social media who were saying that doping was behind his performances.
Asked what kind of team leader he would be, Froome, the overwhelming favourite for this year’s race, said: ”I like to think of myself as being quite an open approachable guy.
”If anyone on the team has a problem, they can come to me and talk to me about things we can do better, things that we can try in the race.
”From a media point of view, I‘m open to any questions, I‘m not going to call you certain names if you ask those questions.
“The bigger adjustment that I’ve made this year has been more from that leadership perspective, to deal with the pressure that goes with it.”
Team Sky’s head of performance support Tim Kerrison confirmed that Froome had not been training to win the Tour just with his pedalling skills.
“We wanted to prepare Chris for the other demands of the Tour, especially when you’re a big contender and potentially wearing the (yellow) jersey,” the Australian told reporters.
”Things like the daily scrums at the bus with the fans and the media, doing the podium (ceremony), the doping controls, the press conferences, all the things for the few people who are either big contenders or leading the race, it adds quite a significant demand to the race, takes up a lot of time.
“It means you have to be more efficient with your recovery, you need to know when to say no.”
Editing by John Mehaffey