Chris Froome’s Route d'Occitanie performance will help shape Tour de France role

Four-time Tour winner builds up July with final stage race prep

Clock16:02, Wednesday 14th June 2023
Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech) in action earlier this season

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech) in action earlier this season

With the Tour de France just a few weeks away, four-time winner Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech) is well aware that time is of the essence as he looks to solidify his potential role at the biggest race of the year.

The 38-year-old lines up at La Route d'Occitanie - La Dépêche du Midi this week, a four-day race in which he and his team will aim for the overall win, and a strong performance from Froome will bolster his July hopes after what has been a stop-start campaign.

“I’ve just done some recon and by the looks of it, the first day at d'Occitanie could be brutal with crosswinds,” Froome told GCN exclusively.

“That will make for some good racing but I’ve got four days of racing coming up so I'm mostly looking at the big mountain stage with the summit finish [stage 3 to Cap Nestes]. I want to do well there. We’ll see where I’m at compared to the other guys.”

Froome lines up alongside teammate and defending d'Occitanie champion Mike Woods in France. The Canadian finished second in Tuesday’s CIC Mont Ventoux one-day race, with Froome forced to make two bike changes before the finish. The veteran finished 55th on the day, and believes that the result was shaped by his mechanical issues, rather than a lack of form.

“It didn’t go well for me yesterday, for one reason or another. I had two bike changes and it wasn’t great. With the race also being shortened with one time straight up Ventoux, it wasn’t a great day to be having mechanicals and having bike changes because there wasn’t a moment when the pace wasn’t high. It was a short race, it was a lot more anaerobic with one climb, so I’d like to think that yesterday wasn’t a true reflection of where I’m at,” Froome said.

“But Mike is going really well and was second in Ventoux yesterday. We’re definitely going all-in with him this week but for me personally, if I can be there when it starts to get selective, that would be great.”

While d'Occitanie hogs the headlines, all attention will sono turn to the Tour de France with the Grand Départ taking place in just over a fortnight. Israel-Premier Tech will probably wait until the last week of June before announcing their final Tour de France roster, and while the team has struggled for wins this season, the squad certainly doesn’t lack experience or versatility.

In the last two seasons Froome has targeted stages, while also fulfilling a road captain role. So while a GC challenge may not be on the cards, the all-rounder would dearly like to line up for another chance to add to his palmares.

“It hasn’t really been discussed,” he said when asked about the team’s Tour selection. 

“We’ve got a long list of around 12 to 13 guys. Eight will go but we’ve not yet sat down as a group or been told if the group is going to target GC or stages. I think all options are on the table. Nothing has been ruled out at this point,” he added.

“I think I’ll have a much better idea after this next week of racing. For now it’s a bit hard to tell because we’ve just been doing training camps but I think I’m on the right track and I’m very much hoping to be there. The route for the Tour looks really great though, with the hard start in the Basque Country, it’s really a route that suits the climbers with a big battle in the mountains.

“I’m just focussing on what I can do. I’ll keep working hard and rest is out of my hands. I think that looking at my data and training will also come into the broader spectrum because d'Occitanie has one real climbing day, but I feel like I’ve done my homework and I’m ready to race. A lot depends on how things go with this block of racing. It would be amazing if I could find myself in a position to try and win a stage on a big day in the mountains.”

One certainty is that Froome has no intentions of calling time on his career. With two years left on his current contract, the seven-time Grand Tour winner still has a passion for the sport.

“I still love it, very much so. The lifestyle and being on the road, it’s not easy with a young family. Last week the family came up to Ventoux for the weekend for some recon. It was good fun to take the kids up to Ventoux and showing them the good memories and the not so good memories I had up there. I was able to tell them about Tom Simpson, and explain to the kids a bit more about the sport. But I’ve still got a contract until the end of 2025, so no plans on stopping anytime soon.”

GCN+ joined Chris Froome at the Tour du Rwanda earlier this year for a new documentary charting his return to race in Africa for the first time in 14 years.

Froome: Back in Africa is now available for GCN+ subscribers to watch on the app.

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