Froome gearing up for Tour
Chris Froome believes he has the ability to go toe-to-toe with his rivals at the Tour de France.
Last Updated: 29/01/13 2:32pm
Chris Froome believes he has the ability to go toe-to-toe with his rivals at the Tour de France but is fully aware this year's event will be a "hard challenge".
The 27-year-old and Team Sky are targeting a win at a mountainous 100th edition of the world's most famous bike race, with Froome among the favourites for overall victory.
One of the strongest fields in recent years is expected on the start line in Corsica, with previous winners Andy Schleck, Cadel Evans and Froome’s team-mate Bradley Wiggins joined by rising star Tejay van Garderen and, potentially, climbing expert Joaquim Rodriguez.
Many believe the man to beat in July is likely to be two-time champion Contador after he reasserted his Grand Tour prowess by winning the Vuelta a Espana last September. However Froome is adamant that race has not dented his belief that he can claim the yellow jersey in Paris.
"I feel I can win the Tour," the Kenyan-born rider told reporters at Team Sky's media day. "It is going to be a hard challenge, especially with the likes of Contador there, possibly Rodriguez, Andy Schleck returning, Cadel, Tejay van Garderen. Tejay is only getting stronger every year.
"I don't believe he [Contador] is unbeatable. If you look at last year's Vuelta, he was sitting in second or third place coming into the last week.
"He almost got beaten then. It was just due to bad tactics by Rodriguez that he lost the Vuelta last year, but he certainly isn't unbeatable.
"It is going to be hard work. I believe it is a harder ask than last year."
A route for climbers
Tour organisers the ASO have marked the centenary edition of the race with an epic route containing a summit finish on the legendary Mont Ventoux and two ascents of Alpe d'Huez in a single day.
It has the potential to be one of the most challenging parcours in the recent history of the race - and Froome, who spent the winter training in South Africa before arriving in Mallorca, admits the challenge over the three weeks is significant.
"The four mountain-top finishes are critical," he said. "Mont Ventoux after 230km of racing is brutal, plus two times up Alpe d'Huez.
"I raced up Alpe d'Huez once, in 2008, and that was hard enough, so do it twice with a tricky descent in the middle is going to be testing to say the least.
"The two time trials are days where probably not a lot of time will be gained, but if something went wrong, you would lose a lot of time.
"It's going to take a well-balanced rider to win the Tour this year - not a pure climber, given that there are time trials in the race."