News: Froome a Man Down for SunTour Defence

Team Sky’s three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome admits he has a challenge ahead if he is to join the select group of men to win back-to-back Jayco Herald Sun Tours.

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News: Froome a Man Down for SunTour Defence

Froome confident in spite of reduced Sky squad for Jayco Herald Sun Tour title defence

Team Sky’s three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome admits he has a challenge ahead if he is to join the select group of men to win back-to-back Jayco Herald Sun Tours. The 64th edition of Australia’s oldest stage race will be held around Victoria from Wednesday 1st to Sunday 5th February 2017.

“I can’t wait to return to the Herald Sun Tour,” Froome said. “It was a great way for me to start my season in 2016 and I was keen to ride it again this year after completing my training block in Australia. I’d love to retain my title, but I know it will be very tough. It’s very early in my season and there’s some really stiff competition. Plus, just like last year, the course looks challenging.”

Peter Panton was the first man to successfully defend his title in 1960 and it wasn’t long before Garry Waddell began his streak of five straight victories in 1964. Graham McVilly was next in 1973-74 but it would take a 26-year-old Simon Gerrans in 2006 to come up trumps in a Lygon Street nail-biter for another rider to break the drought.

Should Froome be successful, he’ll have to do so with just five teammates after Welshman Owain Doull was struck down with appendicitis earlier this month. “We have a strong team and I will be giving it my all,” Froome confirmed. “Unfortunately we’ll only start with six riders due to Owain Doull’s illness, but I’m very confident in the remaining five guys I’ll have around me.”

Froome’s win in 2016 was only secured on the last day on Arthurs Seat with the yellow jersey in the hands of teammate Peter Kennaugh from Stage 1. It was a definite show of strength and tactical marvel from Team Sky and Sports Director Brett Lancaster is suggesting a similar game plan this time around. “We’ll be looking to win the Jayco Herald Sun Tour with Froomey but, without giving too much away, we’ve got a few cards to play!” Lancaster said.

“Froomey has been training in Australia and will be going well. He loves coming out here and racing, it’s nice and relaxed for him on a beautiful parcours. We’ve got a good little team and we’ll give it everything.”

Lancaster, 2004 Olympic gold medallist for Australia alongside Graeme Brown, Brad McGee and Luke Roberts and stage winner at both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, grew up in Shepparton and so the tougher stages on offer in the Victorian high country for this coming Jayco Herald Sun Tour were frequently visited training roads. “I personally know the area very well. I grew up around there and so I’ll try and pass some of that onto the guys,” he said.

The challenge for Team Sky and Froome is considerable with a string of riders headed by Colombian Esteban Chaves, Gerrans (ORICA-Scott), alongside former winners including Cameron Meyer (Korda-Mentha Australian National Team), Calvin Watson (Aqua Blue Sport).

Team Sky’s firepower was on show at the recent Tour Down Under with Frenchman Kenny Elissonde and Colombian Sebastian Henao leading the charge up Willunga Hill. “[Esteban] Chaves is probably the main rival,” admitted Lancaster. “The first stage after the prologue has a 20km climb and that will suit Chaves, but it will suit Sebastian [Henao] for us and maybe Kenny [Elissonde] too, so we’ll have some numbers.”

For the flatter stages, Danny van Poppel will be keen to get onto the top step of the podium after a number of close calls at the Adelaide event, while Luke Rowe and hard man Ian Stannard will be ever-watchful for Froome and have the ability to hit the front of the race if the opportunity presents. Lancaster said that the formula for Froome is a simple one – “Chris is here to enjoy it, and if he’s enjoying it, he’ll go well – just like last year!”

The 2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour will be presented by Jayco and the Herald Sun, along with the continued support from the Victorian State Government.
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Team Sky – 2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour
Chris FROOME: Returns to the Sun Tour in 2017 as defending champion having snatched a thrilling final stage win from teammate Peter Kennaugh. Claimed his third Tour de France title in 2016, and finished as runner-up on GC in the Vuelta a Espana. Last season also saw Froome win his third Critérium du Dauphiné title.

Kenny ELISSONDE: In his first season with Team Sky having ridden with FDJ since turning professional in 2011. The climbing specialist will be key in Froome’s Sun Tour title defence. Won a stage of the Vuelta a Espana in 2013 at his first attempt, on the Angliru, one of the toughest roads in cycling.

Sebastian HENAO: A key man for Froome on the climbs. Henao was sixth overall at last year’s Arctic Race of Norway and finished inside the top 20 at the Giro d’Italia. Returns to the Sun Tour for a second time.

Luke ROWE: Lead-out man and key domestique. Won the opening classic of the season in 2016 at the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. That form continued with Rowe’s fourth place at the Tour of Flanders. A previous stage winner at the Tour of Romandie, as well as top 10s at the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race, the tour of Qatar and Paris-Roubaix.

Ian STANNARD: A man for the tough conditions of the classics, and a two-time winner of Omloop Het Nieuwsblad, Stannard was rewarded for his years of toil in 2016 with his third place at Paris-Roubaix. The man known as ‘Yogi’ also reached the podium a month earlier at E3 Harelbeke. Closed out 2016 with stage victory at the Tour of Britain.

Danny van Poppel: The Dutch sprinter had a few close calls at the 2017 Tour Down Under, with a runner-up finish to Caleb Ewan on the opening stage and a fourth place on stage 3. Claimed his first stage win in a grand tour at the 2015 Vuelta a Espana.

2017 Jayco Herald Sun Tour
What: 64th edition of Australia’s oldest stage race
When: Wednesday 1st to Sunday 5th February 2017
Website: www.heraldsuntour.com.au

Day 1: KordaMentha Real Estate Prologue: Start 6.15pm Finish 7.30pm Wednesday 1st February – Melbourne Southbank – 2.1km Falls Creek Stage 1: Start 10.30am Finish 3.15pm approx.

Day 2: Thursday 2nd February – Wangaratta to Falls Creek – 174.2km Cycling Australia–She Rides Stage 2: Start 10.30am Finish 2.40pm approx.

Day 3: Friday 3rd February – Mt Beauty to Beechworth – 165.6km Mitchelton Wines Stage 3: Start 10.30am Finish 2.25pm approx.

Day 4: Saturday 4th February – Benalla to Mitchelton Winery, Nagambie – 167.7km – Stage 4 Kinglake Circuit: Start 12.30pm Finish 3.30pm approx.

Day 5: Sunday 5th February – Kinglake – 121km (4 laps)

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