Paris, June 30, 2017
Ahead of the Grand Depart tomorrow in Dusseldorf Team Sky riders and staff have been giving their views on the challenge of defending Chris Froome's crown
Team Sky's lead Directeur Sportif, Nicolas Portal, said he is expecting a tight GC battle at the Tour de France and has suggested that those hopeful of overall victory will have to make their own opportunities to take time throughout the three weeks, rather than waiting for 'set piece' stages.
The Frenchman, who has overseen all of Froome's three Tour de France victories from the lead race car, said:
"It might not immediately look it in terms of profiles, but it’s a really challenging course and it will be a difficult Tour to win.
"There are a lot of hard stages but only three summit finishes. Two of these are proper summit finishes in the mountains and the third one is Planche de Belles Filles. That one will be pretty punchy.
"The fact that we have only three summit finishes is a challenge. When you have big GC contenders that are really good on the climbs, obviously for them the challenge is to ensure they perform really well on those big stages. This year we have to find other ways to win.
"I think riding smart every day and creating opportunities could be a way to win the Tour de France this year; obviously the three mountain finishes are really important but every day will be very important, the tension will be very high, and we will have to be focused.
"This year the race is very open. There are lots of stages that might not have the big climbs, but there is something tricky. That might be crosswinds or a really short climb to the finish where a lot of teams will think they have an opportunity.
"I think it will be hard racing every day - you cannot lose one day. If you lose a chance on a stage, you are not sure the next day or the next week you will get another opportunity. We really need to take a day by day view of this year’s race as I expect it to be really tight."
Chris Froome said:
“The Tour de France is a special race and it would just be incredible to win it for a fourth time. Aiming for that fourth victory has given me a lot of motivation.
“To me, each Tour tells a different story. Every Tour is a different battle in terms of getting that Yellow Jersey and then trying to hold on to it.
“We’re ready as a team and I can’t wait for the Tour to start now. Honestly, I just love it. It’s a feeling that you don’t get from any other race.”
Team Sky rider Christian Knees has described racing the 2017 Tour de France as ‘doubly special’ with the Grand Depart taking place in Dusseldorf, just 80km from his hometown in Germany.
Knees, 36, is a veteran of 16 Grand Tours and will be a crucial member of the team’s nine-man lineup. The German said:
"Just to get into the Tour de France team, even if the start wasn’t in Germany, would represent a great year for me. But with the Grand Depart in Germany, very close to my hometown – just 80 kilometres away – makes it very special. Dusseldorf is also the town where my wife used to live. I know it well so that makes it doubly special for me. I’m very proud to be there on the start line."
"The racing is definitely going to be exciting. I’m sure the crowds will be out, with the time trial on the opening day and the start of stage two. I know plenty of people in the area and it sounds like the schools and towns are all getting ready, painting bikes and dressing up the roadside. It’s a big deal for everybody, and I hope it will be a big celebration of cycling across the two days in Germany.
"I have plenty of fond memories of riding the Tour. To be selected for the squad, and having the defending champion in your team, and a pre-race favourite – that makes it really special and motivates me even more to give my best and arrive in the best possible shape for the race. To start the Tour with Froomey will be a special moment."
I will bring all my experience into the team and try to help the younger guys wherever I can. I hope I can be a big help across the three weeks."
The Team Sky lineup for the Tour de France is:
Chris Froome – British – age 32
2016 winner Chris Froome returns to the Tour de France with his eyes firmly set on a landmark fourth victory and a third consecutive Tour title. Froome has spoken of the need to create his own opportunities at what is expected to be a fiercely competitive edition of the Tour, and a combative display at the Criterium du Dauphine gave an indication of things to come.
Sergio Henao – Colombian – age 29
Colombian climber Sergio Henao is enjoying the finest season of his career. Fresh from winning the Colombian national road championship in February the 29 year old won a thrilling edition of Paris-Nice, before enjoying a strong Ardennes campaign, co-leading the team alongside Michal Kwiatkowski. Henao is viewed as one of the fiercest competitors in the peloton, and Froome knows he can rely upon the loyal Colombian come rain or shine.
Vasil Kiryienka – Belarusian – age 35
Time trial specialist Vasil Kiryienka is one of the sport’s most consistent performers. Off the back of a typically committed performance at the Giro d’Italia, the popular Belarusian is sure to take the 18th Grand Tour of his illustrious career in his stride, setting tempo on the flat and in the mid-mountains. A hugely popular member of the squad, fan favourite ‘Kiry’ rarely misses a beat and is sure to be seen at the front of the peloton over the coming month.
Christian Knees – German – age 36
Christian Knees will proudly take to the start line of his 17th Grand Tour at the Grand Depart in his homeland. The German brings a wealth of experience to the table and will relish racing his first Tour de France since 2012 on the back of a resurgent 2017. He performed his typically strong and selfless role throughout the cobbled Classics campaign, then looked after Chris Froome on the flatter days at the Criterium du Dauphine. A hugely respected member of the squad, Knees will be a crucial part of the Team Sky lineup.
Michal Kwiatkowski – Polish – age 27
Racing his first Tour de France in Team Sky colours on the back of a triumphant first half of the season, Kwiatkowski is in some of the best form of his career. After winning Strade Bianche and Milan-San Remo, Kwiato earned two podium finishes in the Ardennes Classics, before demonstrating his versatility by producing an inspired climbing performance in support of Chris Froome at the Criterium du Dauphine. It’s that world-class versatility that will make Kwiatkowski invaluable on the road in France.
Mikel Landa – Spanish – age 27
If his Giro d’Italia form is anything to go by, Mikel Landa is likely to arrive at the Tour de France in outstanding shape. The Spaniard suffered an unfortunate crash on stage nine in Italy, ending his GC challenge, but he bounced back in superb fashion: third on stage 14 then second on stages 16 and 18, the Spaniard finally secured a famous win on stage 19, wrapping up the Mountains jersey in the process. Now his focus has switched to supporting Chris Froome and being part of a winning Tour team for the second year running.
Mikel Nieve – Spanish – age 33
One of the team’s most valued climbers, Nieve is set to ride his third Tour de France in support of Chris Froome. The Basque climber, known as Frosty to his team mates, finished 12th in the Tour in 2013, has won two stages at the Giro d’Italia, and recently demonstrated his form with a strong climbing performance at the Tour de Suisse ahead of his 13th Grand Tour.
Luke Rowe – British – age 27
Amongst his many talents, Luke Rowe can also claim to be one of Chris Froome’s lucky charms - Froome has won both editions of the Tour that Rowe has raced, in 2015 and ’16. Road captain on both occasions, the popular Welshman will have a huge part to play again in 2017 after another encouraging campaign for the Classics specialist. An impressive third place finish at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne in March was further evidence of Rowe’s development and he played a pivotal role in Sergio Henao’s Paris-Nice win, marshalling him through the race’s early crosswinds.
Geraint Thomas – British – age 31
2017 has been a whirlwind year for Geraint Thomas. The Welshman picked up a brilliant stage win at Tirreno-Adriatico and took the overall title at the Tour of the Alps on his way to co-leading Team Sky at the Giro d’Italia, but suffered a heart-breaking crash on stage nine, sustaining injuries that eventually ruled him out of the race. The 31 year old has quickly bounced back to fitness, though, and will hope to continue the excellent form he took to the Giro as he returns to the Tour.
Video intro to the Team Sky Roster for the Tour de France
(video courtesy of Team Sky)
Stage 1: 1 July - Dusseldorf - Dusseldorf (time trial), 13km
Stage 2: 2 July - Dusseldorf - Liege (Belgium), 202km
Stage 3: 3 July - Verviers (Belgium) - Longwy, 202km
Stage 4: 4 July - Mondorf-Les-Bains (Luxembourg) - Vittel, 203km
Stage 5: 5 July - Vittel - La Planche des Belles Filles, 160km
Stage 6: 6 July - Vesoul - Troyes, 216km
Stage 7: 7 July 7 - Troyes - Nuits-Saint-Georges, 214km
Stage 8: 8 July 8 - Dole - Station des Rousses, 187km
Stage 9: 9 July - Nantua - Chambery, 181km
First rest day: 10 July
Stage 10: 11 July - Perigueux - Bergerac, 178km
Stage 11: 12 July - Eymet - Pau, 202km
Stage 12: 13 July - Pau - Peyragudes, 214km
Stage 13: 14 July - Saint-Girons - Foix, 100km
Stage 14: 15 July - Blagnac - Rodez, 181km
Stage 15: 16 July - Laissac-Severac L'Eglise - Le-Puy-en-Velay, 189km
Second rest day: 17 July
Stage 16: 18 July - Le-Puy-en-Velay - Romans-sur-Isere, 165km
Stage 17: 19 July - La Mure - Serre-Chevalier, 183km
Stage 18: 20 July - Briancon - Izoard, 178km
Stage 19: 21 July - Embrun - Salon-de-Provence, 220km
Stage 20: 22 July - Marseille - Marseille (time trial), 23km
Stage 21: 23 July - Montgeron - Paris Champs-Elysees, 105km