Chris Froome wins Velo d'Or to cap dream year as Tour route unveiled
Chris Froome has been rewarded for his best year in cycling by winning the coveted Velo d'Or on the day the route for the 2018 Tour de France was unveiled.
British sporting icon Froome won the Tour for a fourth time, the Vuelta a Espana for a first time and a world time trial bronze to claim the prize for the world's top rider.
The award is nominated by the international cycling media and organised by the French publication Vélo Magazine.
“It’s a great honour to have this trophy and I want to thank everybody who voted for me,” said Froome. “It was a fantastic year, I will remember it all my life. It was a special season, and I have to thank a lot of people.”
Tom Dumoulin should be Froome's main rival as the Briton targets a record-equalling fifth title in the 2018 Tour de France. Dutchman Dumoulin won the Giro d'Italia this year before Froome claimed a fourth Tour triumph, both relying mainly on their time-trialling qualities.
Next year's Tour will feature a 35km team time trial in Cholet and could be decided in a hilly 31km individual effort against the clock on the penultimate day in the Basque country.
"A contest between Chris Froome and Tom Dumoulin, two riders with similar qualities, wouldn’t displease me," said Tour director Christian Prudhomme. "It would force one of the two to try something different in order to surprise the other.
“We’re looking at a new generation that wants to entertain. I think that if Christopher Froome is up against Tom Dumoulin they will want to do that. They will be more or less equal in the time trials.
"That’s something very exciting.”
There will be many challenges on the course, however, with 21.7 kilometres on cobbles on the ninth stage to Roubaix, where the Queen of the Classics, also known as the "Hell of the North" finishes each year.
That will be followed by a rest day before the riders tackle three punishing stages in the Alps with a summit finish at top of the iconic Alpe d'Huez.
"That's a special challenge for the riders as they will need to switch from flat-stage mode to mountain-stage mode," Tour competitions director Thierry Gouvenou told Reuters.
One of the trickiest stages might be the 17th from Bagneres de Luchon to Saint-Lary Soulan as it is only 65 kilometres long, making it very hard to control for the favourites. It will be the Tour's shortest stage since 1971.
The race is likely to be decided in the 20th stage, a 31-km hilly individual time trial.
Dumoulin is the reigning time trial world champion, both individually and with his Sunweb team, but Team Sky's Froome has experience on his side.
Full Tour de France 2018 route
- Stage 1 - Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile to Fontenay-le-Comte, 189km
- Stage 2 - Mouilleron-Saint-Germain to La Roche-sur-Yon, 183km
- Stage 3 - Cholet to Cholet, team time trial, 35km
- Stage 4 - La Baule to Sarzeau, 192km
- Stage 5 - Lorient to Quimper, 203km
- Stage 6 - Brest to Mur de Bretagne, 181km
- Stage 7 - Fougeres to Chartres, 231km
- Stage 8 - Dreux to Amiens, 181km
- Stage 9 - Arras to Roubaix, 154km
- Rest day in Annecy
- Stage 10 - Annecy to Le Grand Bornand, 159km
- Stage 11 - Albertville to La Rosiere, 108km
- Stage 12 - Bourg-Saint-Maurice to L'Alpe d'Huez, 175km
- Stage 13 - Bourg d'Oisans to Valence, 169km
- Stage 14 - Saint-Pauol-Trois-Chateaux to Mende, 187km
- Stage 15 - Millau to Carcassonne, 181km
- Rest day in Carcassonne
- Stage 16 - Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon, 218km
- Stage 17 - Bagneres-de-Luchon to Saint-Lary-Soulan, 65km
- Stage 18 - Tries-sur-Baise to Pau, 172km
- Stage 19 - Lourdes to Laruns, 200km
- Stage 20 - Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle to Espelette, individual time trial, 31km
- Stage 21 - Houilles to Paris Champs-Elysées, 115km