Cobbles cause Froome concern
Reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome believes the 2014 version could prove to be more of a lottery due to nine cobbled sections of a tricky fifth stage.
The full route of the 101st edition of the Tour was announced on Wednesday morning and the speculation regarding a return to a cobbled stage for the first time since 2010 was confirmed.
Starting in Leeds on July 5, the route features two stages in Yorkshire and a Cambridge-to-London third stage before transferring across the Channel with the fifth stage from Ypres containing the nine cobbled sections covering over 15 kilometres and guiding the riders to Arenberg.
Norwegian rider Thor Hushovd won the cobbled stage three years ago, which was described by many of the riders at the time as 'carnage' and Froome, who followed in the wheel tracks of Team Sky team-mate and fellow Briton Sir Bradley Wiggins in winning the Tour earlier this year, will be wary of the toll taken by the bumpy ride.
"There is this cobble stage which is something we are not used to," he said at the launch event at the Palais des Congres.
"It makes it a bit more of a lottery but I'm sure, as a team, we will look into anything we can do to reduce the risks and limit any losses if there are any."
But, if Froome is to become the first man since Miguel Indurain to defend the Tour crown - after Lance Armstrong's results were wiped from the record books after he admitted doping - the 28-year-old knows the stage could prove to be a bike-breaker but he is also ready to push home any advantage if he finds himself in a position to do so.
"It is something that will literally shake things up," he added.
"For me the cobbles just represent more of a risk in terms of a mechanical failure or something going wrong and crashes but in terms of the race it will make it interesting and it is something else that we are going to have to prepare for and hopefully it could be somewhere we look at taking advantages."
Following their battle across the cobbles, the riders will travel through Champagne country, with a sixth stage to Reims as the race skirts the eastern fringes of France before a 10th stage from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles.
Froome won on the steep ascent on the second Saturday of the 2012 Tour as Wiggins took the yellow jersey that he would not relinquish.
Again it is expected the overall contenders will emerge on the climb in 2014. Vincenzo Nibali, Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana, the 2013 runner-up, are all anticipated to rival Froome's bid for victory.
The first rest day in Besancon is followed by the Alpine stages, but it is in the Pyrenees, following the second rest day in Carcassonne, where the overall contenders will do further battle, with finishes at Bagneres-de-Luchon, Saint-Lary-Soulan Pla d'Adet and Hautacam.
The overall winner will be determined by the penultimate day's 54km time-trial, the only one of the race, between Bergerac and Perigueux before the transfer to Paris.
The race finishes in the French capital on July 27, but unlike in this year's 100th Tour, when the Champs-Elysees finish was held under floodlights, the race will conclude in the afternoon sunshine.