Tour de France 2016: Froome eyes place in cycling elite


Chris Froome faces a climb-heavy route as he looks to become only the 12th rider in history to retain the Tour de France yellow jersey.

The Team Sky rider - who won the title in 2013 and 2015 - can become the first man to record back-to-back Tour wins since Miguel Indurain, excluding the expunged results of Lance Armstrong.

Starting in Mont Saint-Michel on July 2 and running to July 24, the 103rd edition of the Grand Tour will cover 3,519 kilometres over its 21 stages - with 12 of them including climbs to test the peloton.

Even the two time-trials at this year's event are uphill, with stage 18 from Sallanches to Megeve a constant ascent for 17km - the first mountain TT since 2004.

Four summit finishes also await the teams in 2016 - including the gruelling Mont Ventoux - and Froome's main rivals Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Richie Porte (BMC Racing) are all expected to flourish on the climbs.

"I feel like the level of our competition has got that much stronger," Froome told Sky Sports. 

"I feel like we're up against tougher competition this time round. I feel like my rivals are in better shape than they have been in the past, [and] there are more of them. 

"I mean there are probably at least 10 guys who could be standing on that final podium in Paris."

Quintana poses the biggest threat to Froome's quest, and Team Sky's leader believes the Colombian will be desperate to reach the top spot after two second-placed finishes.

Froome added: "Given that he [Quintana] finished runner-up to me every time I have won the Tour de France I think he's more motivated than ever this year and it is a course that suits him incredibly well.

"It is a pure climbers course, we've got a couple of time trials but they are not flat, they are tough and hilly which means a climber will go well on them."

The culmination of the 2016 Tour sees four stages in the Alps around the Swiss border with climbs up the brutal Col de la Gueulaz, debuting Montee de Bisanne and Joux-Plane.

Stages 17 to 20 could blow the general classification standings wide open, the rider reaching Morzine in front securing the title ahead of the procession into Paris on the final day.

Last year's race saw disgraceful scenes on the road with spectators targeting Team Sky and particularly Froome, something the Briton hopes is a thing of the past.

"Hopefully it's the same way we were received at Dauphine two weeks ago, with a great atmosphere," he said. 

"This is the biggest race for us of our calendar. We love being here and we love being in France."