Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Chris Froome homing in

Tour champion will drawn inspiration from British crowd

Mark Cavendish

Chris Froome will do his utmost to help British sports fans overcome a disappointing summer by winning a second successive Tour de France title this month.

Froome's bid for a third straight British win in cycling's most prestigious race begins in Leeds today.

Attention has turned to Yorkshire after England's World Cup exit and Andy Murray's Wimbledon woe, with a mild-mannered 29-year-old Kenya-born Briton desperate to deliver despite never having visited Yorkshire prior to his reconnaissance of the stages at the end of May.

"It's massive, it really is special," Froome commented.

"I don't think many Tour champions get to come back as defending champion and can start in front of their home crowd.

"Given the way cycling is growing the past few years and to be in front of that home crowd and have their support is second to none.

"The reception we received from the people here has been just amazing.

"The number of people who have come up to me and said 'Chris, we're with you all the way, good luck, we'll be watching you the next three weeks'."

Sir Bradley Wiggins was the Tour's first British winner in 2012 and was succeeded by Froome as champion in the 100th edition last summer.

Froome is again Team Sky leader with Wiggins not selected, much to the chagrin of his public whose adoration grew for the charismatic Londoner two summers ago.

Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford has admitted the decision to omit Wiggins – largely due to his differences with Froome – gave him sleepless nights.

Froome insisted he had no influence on the selection of his eight-rider support team featuring one Briton in Geraint Thomas, plus Bernhard Eisel, Vasil Kiryienka, David Lopez, Mikel Nieve, Danny Pate, Richie Porte and Xabier Zandio.

Despite emulating Wiggins' achievements, Froome has yet to receive anything like the same acclaim.

He hopes Yorkshire will provide an opportunity to engage with the expected two million roadside fans.

"A lot of people look up to me, especially here in the UK, where the team and myself have a lot of fans," Froome said.

"Popularity is not the reason we race, but it is amazing to see the inspiration that comes out of the riding that we do."

Yorkshire's aim is to become a global cycling heartland and Froome can see why.

"I didn't know a lot about Yorkshire before this year's Tour," he added.

"I had heard obviously that the countryside is extremely scenic, but I thought 'yeah right'.

"I was literally blown away when I came to do the recon up here.

"There couldn't be many better places to want to ride your bike, given that the weather holds out."

Froome is unlikely to be a prominent figure in the race on today's opening day to Harrogate, when fellow Briton Mark Cavendish will bid to win a 26th Tour stage of his career and with it the yellow jersey for the first time.

Team Sky will not be aiding Omega Pharma-QuickStep sprinter Cavendish's bid, though.

"There is a great chance that we will have a Brit in the yellow jersey at the end of stage one," Froome added.

"That is hugely exciting for the British fans, and for Mark, but he is going to have to fight for it."

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