October 20, 2015

PARIS (AP) Chris Froome likes his chances of defending his Tour de France title on a route that plays to his all-around riding skills.

Two individual time trials and 28 tough climbs will be on the schedule in July, organizers announced Tuesday.

''It suits me better than this year's Tour did,'' Froome said.

The 3,519-kilometer (2,186-mile) trek will scale the Pyrenees before the Alps, just as the Tour did this year, again going counter-clockwise around France. That breaks with tradition, because generally the Tour alternates between clockwise and counter-clockwise.

Froome, who also won in 2013, is strong both on climbs and in individual time trials, making him an early favorite for 2016.

''It's not any certain stage or discipline that's going to decide next year's Tour. It's a combination of everything. It's going to take a very well-rounded rider to win,'' the Team Sky rider said. ''It's going to test every aspect of cycling.''

An ascent of Mont Ventoux in Provence on Bastille Day on July 14 will test the best climbers. Froome was the stage winner when the Tour last scaled its barren, 1,909-meter (6,263-foot) peak in 2013 and is eyeing that stage again for another victory next year.

The Mont-Saint-Michel, a World Heritage Benedictine abbey perched on a rock off the Normandy coast, will provide a picture-postcard start for the race. The first stage ends at Utah Beach, where Allied troops landed on D-Day in 1944. Sprinters will vie for the stage victory there.

A first taste of mountains will be on Stage 5, in the Massif Central. From there, there will be little respite on the next 15 stages before the last ride into Paris.

''It's so hard,'' sprinter Mark Cavendish said. ''For 21 days, it's going to be full gas.''

The two time trials are one week apart, totaling 54 kilometers (34 miles).

''My time trialing recently hasn't been great so it's something I'm going to have to work hard on,'' said Froome, the time-trial bronze medalist for Britain at the 2012 London Olympics.

The first of those races against the clock, on Stage 13 a day after the Ventoux ascent, combines two short climbs, long flats and a tricky descent over 37 kilometers (23 miles).

Riders hoping to win time-trial gold the following month at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will be able to use that tough course to gauge their form.

''It's a good test,'' said Tony Martin, the time-trial silver medalist in London.

After the Pyrenees, where the Tour will dip into Spain and Andorra, the Alps will decide the final placings before the July 24 finish in Paris. For three days, the Tour will skirt around Mont Blanc, western Europe's highest peak.

''It's going to be extraordinary,'' Tour director Christian Prudhomme said.

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