Great Britain’s Chris Froome said that his best scenario for Sunday’s UCI Road World Championships race is to isolate the big sprint favourites and make the 277-kilometre men’s event a climbers’ race.
Speaking from his home in Monaco on Thursday, Froome was realistic about his chances in an unpredictable one-day race that isn’t the 2013 Tour de France winner’s forte, yet confident that he is physically prepared and ready to take the race to the other nations.
“I’ve had a good couple of weeks up in Colorado after the USA Pro Cycling Challenge,” said Froome. “I was there with Tim Kerrison (Team Sky’s head of performance support) and a couple of my other (Team Sky) teammates doing some pretty big hours, same sort of blocks that we do in Tenerife when we go up there.”
After a spectacular summer, the 2013 maillot jaune winner admitted that it was difficult to get back into serious condition with the backdrop of an increasingly hectic calendar of media and charitable engagements.
“(It was) pretty hard work getting going again after the Tour and getting the form going in the right direction but I feel after that camp I’m getting better and better – through the Canadian races and the worlds team time trial last weekend,” said Froome.
Following the Tour, Froome had some time off before blocks of training combined with some stage racing in Canada have propelled him into race fitness ahead of Sunday; a date that the rider admits has given him some much needed late season motivation.
“As far as this season goes the world champs has been the driving force for me to try and be ready for the road race on Sunday,” said the 27-year-old.
"I think anyone who wins on Sunday will need a little bit of luck in their favour. I’m definitely up for it and giving it the best shot possible."
“It hasn’t been as big a goal as the Tour. Given also that it’s a one day race and it is quite a gamble. It is quite a long shot to go for the win there. It does make it a lot harder in a lot of respects.
“Having said that I’m up for it. I know I’ve done the training. A lot of guys are tired this time of year. I think anyone who wins on Sunday will need a little bit of luck in their favour. I’m definitely up for it and giving it the best shot possible.”
Froome went on to spell out exactly what ‘the best shot’ would be for the climbing specialist, who built his 2013 stage race victories on his ability to distance the world’s best on mountain top finishes.
“We’re going to have to sit down with the guys and come up with the best strategy possible for us,” said Froome, who went home to Monaco for some final training after the worlds team time trial, before planning to return to Florence on Friday.
“I think taking on the race, trying to make it the hardest race possible, isolate the sprinters and make it more of a climbers’ race. That’s the way we should push for it. I think there will be a few other racers in a similar kind of position, thinking along the same lines as us.”
Teams with riders such as Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana would also favour a race which took the fight to the sprinters, as Froome explained.
“If I look at other teams I’d imagine the Spanish would want a very hard race. The Colombians, the Italians, basically anyone who doesn’t have a punchy sprinter like (Peter) Sagan or (Philippe) Gilbert. The objective for other countries becomes to try and get rid of those guys.”
"I think taking on the race, trying to make it the hardest race possible, isolate the sprinters and make it more of a climbers’ race. That’s the way we should push for it."
Froome went on to spell out the threat that the Slovakian Sagan and Belgian Gilbert posed and how to nullify their talents.
“Personally I think those two are the ones to really look out for”, said Froome. “If the race got to a point where they were in difficulty due to the amount of climbing then I think it would be more of a climbers’ race but as long as those two guys are there then it’s basically up to them.
"The pressure is on them to be pulling back any breakaways or to be making the moves.”
With Gilbert, along with riders like Fabien Cancellara past masters at one-day events, Froome is realistic about the task ahead, given his lack of experience in one day events. He did however, hint at a desire to take on some of the monuments of one day racing in the future.
“One day racing is something that I haven’t perfected by any means,” admitted Froome. “I haven’t had any big results in one day racing so I think as a smaller goal... I know my niche is going to be Tour racing.
“I need to focus on stage racing in the future but on a personal level I’d love to try and do well in a race like Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Another interesting one next year could be Milan-San Remo with an extra climb towards the finish. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to at least trying to be up there in those races.”
Unlike Gilbert and Sagan, Froome, on the flat at least, lacks the ability to explode in the final 500 metres, essential if the race came down to anything other than a solo victory. However, the Tour de France winner explained that after 280-kilometres, racing often doesn’t go to form.
“I’m not exactly very punchy or explosive when it comes to a bunch sprint or a final kick so if I am to win I will have to try and go clear on possibly the last couple of laps,” said Froome.
“Having said that, stranger things have happened. After 280-kilometres, even if it does come to a sprint it’s as much about who’s still got legs. You can be explosive and fast but if you don’t have the legs it’s not going to help you anymore so I think it’s going to boil down to whoever’s got the legs after 280 kilometres.”
The elite men’s road race takes place on Sunday 29 September and begins at 9:00am BST.