Chris Froome: the pressure’s on, but I have to keep improving

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Chris Froome: the pressure’s on, but I have to keep improving

Tour de France champion talks preparation for his yellow jersey defence and maintaining motivation

Chris Froome insists he is focusing on the future – and refusing to dwell on his two Tour de France titles – as he prepares to defend his yellow jersey in July next year.

Team Sky’s team leader took some time off from, erm, having time off to chat to CNBC about how he prepares for cycling’s biggest race and the pressure that being the defending Tour de France champion brings.

And while Froome is enjoying a well-earned break right now, after a year which not only saw him crowned Tour champion – and King of the Mountains winner – but also win the Ruta del Sol and Criterium du Dauphine, it will be full gas all the way to the Normandy start line when winter training resumes.

Tour de France champion Chris Froome says he must keep improving if he is to win again in 2016 (Pic: Sirotti)

“Well, at the moment I’m in terrible condition,” he told Karen Tso, anchor of European Squawk Box. “This is our month off, generally a month to six weeks where it can just be normal again, you can have a burger, have a beer, but the rest of the year, from November onwards it pretty much is ten months of living a very much full on lifestyle to get ready for the Tour de France again.

“Bookies have me down as a favourite for next year’s Tour but I try not to think too much about the past, I try not to think too much about last year, I mean it’s been a fantastic season for me, winning the Tour de France but the real challenge is going in and backing it up.

“I’ve won two Tours now but certainly after winning the Tour de France, it is harder to go back and do it again.

“You have a lot more pressure on your shoulders, you’re being pulled left and right over the winter doing different appearances and I think a lot of the responsibility there, for me personally, is to try and limit the amount of engagements that I do have and try and focus on what I’m meant to do, which is riding my bike.”

Froome admitted the prospect of returning to the form he was in back in July is a daunting one but the key, the Kenyan-born Brit believes, is to break the season up and tick off smaller goals along the way – starting with the team’s winter training camp.

“For me right now, in my current shape, looking at something like the Tour de France next year, it’s quite a daunting goal to be in that kind of form.

“To challenge for a Tour de France title, right now, it feels like its miles away and really quite unachievable.

“But I think to be able to set yourself smaller goals and objectives earlier on is key. For me personally, once I get to January I know I’ve got to go on to a training camp with the rest of my team mates, I’ve got to be fit enough to ride at least pretty competitively with them and then to start racing in February to have a few smaller goals before the Tour de France.

“I think it’s always useful to be able to set yourself these smaller, more achievable goals.”

Froome admits taking time off the bike in the off-season makes the Tour seem a daunting prospect – so the key will be to set smaller targets and build momentum early next season (pic: Sirotti)

Froome has, however, been here before. Back in 2014 he kick-started the season on the back of his Tour de France win and quickly recaptured his form – only for injuries and crashes to blight his season and ultimately curtail his Tour in the first week.

But, while he is focusing on the future, the 30-year-old is keen to take the lessons he learned in 2014 to help him going into the 2016 season.

“You’ve got to take those opportunities to be able to learn from them,” he said. “If I look back at the 2014 Tour de France, I’d won the Tour in 2013, I felt as if my preparations and everything had been perfect leading up until the 2014 tour… and a careless moment, a careless crash, basically ended my Tour de France completely.

“I think being able to pick yourself up from the disappointments, and to be able to learn from them and just ask yourself the question, what could I have done better to avoid that situation, certainly is useful going forward.”

Froome believes the 2016 Tour de France route is well-suited to his strengths (pic: Y.Sunada/ASO)

Froome has been given a boost after the course for next year’s Tour was unveiled, with a route well-suited to his characteristics as a rider – on paper, at least.

Froome has already suggested it will take a ‘complete cyclist’ to win next year and told CNBC he believes he fits the billing.

“If I look at my strengths as a professional cyclist, I think I’m quite well rounded, I’m able to time trial relatively well compared to the pure climbers who I’m up against in a lot of the Tour de France and this past Tour basically had zero time trial kilometres. We had a prologue right at the beginning but apart from that there was no time trialling.

“Next year’s course definitely does have a lot more time trialling and in that sense it’s going to be a much more balanced race and it’s going to be that balance of who can hang on the time trials and still climb at the top level.

 

“It’s going to take someone who can do a bit of everything to win next year’s Tour.”

The key for Froome, he says, will be to stay motivated to win again – and to keep improving himself – with the disappointment of 2014 arguably a greater source of motivation than a third victory.

“I think motivation is an interesting topic,” he said. “Certainly for me I feel as if there are two ways of approaching it.

“On the back of disappointment, sure, in the moment it is hugely frustrating and you feel as if you’ve lost months and months of training and preparation, but actually those disappointments are fantastic, that’s what picks me up, that’s what motivates me really.

Froome admits bouncing back from disappointments – such as his Vuelta a Espana injury, pictured, can be a better source of motivation (pic: Sirotti)

“I go home and I analyse why things went wrong and I really feel as if that gives me a lot of motivation to come back even stronger the next opportunity I get.

“I think what’s more tricky is coming in and trying to stay motivated and even trying to improve when things have gone well for you.

“I think it’s quite easy to fall in to that trap, becoming complacent, and OK, I’ve won the Tour de France, well I’ll just go in next year and try and do the same thing again – it doesn’t work like that.

“I’m going to have to try and be better next year – I’ve got to look at everything I’m doing, every factor of my nutrition, my training, everything to be ready for the Tour de France and try and do it even better than I’ve done in the past.”

In order to do exactly that, Froome says he will be looking to build momentum from the word go in 2016.

“Certainly motivation is a bit part of racing. I mean winning a race like the Tour de France, it’s not possible for me to just show up in July in fantastic conduction and take on the Tour de France.

“I think it is critical for me to win at least one or two races, even if they’re smaller events, before the Tour de France just to build that momentum [and] to build the trust among my colleagues and my team-mates so that I really do have the buy-in 100 per cent from everyone going in to the Tour de France, so that they know that if they give it their all, that I’m going to be just as up for it and I’m going to give it absolutely everything to try and finish off the job for them.”

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