Cycling: Froome eyes Paris-Roubaix for Tour preparation

Three-time Tour de France defending champion Chris Froome may get to grips with the cobbles planned for stage nine by racing Paris-Roubaix.

Chris Froome may race Paris-Roubaix for only the second time in his career in preparation for navigating the famous cobbles during the 2018 Tour de France.

Froome has only raced 'The Hell of the North' once in his career – in 2008 – but he did not finish the one-day race.

With stage nine of next year's Tour to include 15 sections of cobbles on the way into Roubaix, the Team Sky rider could change his plans to ensure his quest for a fifth title are not derailed early on.

"I certainly didn't have any plans on racing Paris-Roubaix [in 2018] but I might have to re-evaluate that now," Froome said at the launch of the 2018 route.

Having assessed what lies in store next July, the three-time defending Tour champion anticipates a "massive challenge" to make it four in a row - a feat that would see him equal the record for general classification titles.

"We've got a massive challenge," he added. "It's a Tour de France that really tests every aspect of cycling.

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"We've got gravel roads, cobbles, a lot of windy dangerous stages in the first half, then obviously we go into the Alps and the Pyrenees for some brutal mountain stages as well.

"[The first week] is going to make the Tour de France very nervous, especially until we reach the Alps and the first summit finishes, it's going to be a very nervous race. That region, in the north-western part of France is known to be very windy so I'm sure that will play a big part as well.

"I think the queen stage will most probably be Alpe d'Huez, with around 5000 metres of climbing, so I'm going to say that will be the biggest challenge."

Nairo Quintana – who has been Froome's main rival in recent years but failed to challenge in 2017 – is excited by the test ahead, and says it could work in his favour.

"There are lots of nice stages, it’s a route I quite like," said the Colombian. "There are lots of mountains that will suit me, and the time trial isn’t that long. 

"The pave [cobbles] stage will be difficult, it's a day where you'll need a good team around you.

"Some of the stages in the north, it's true, they are tough, but I've ridden there a lot, and I have team-mates who have the characteristics for those stages, so I will be well supported there.

"On the cobbled stage we'll have to be particularly careful."

Meanwhile, Mark Cavendish – who saw his 2017 chances in the points classification ended after a coming together with Peter Sagan – believes it will be tough for the sprinters.

"Hardest Tour I've ever seen, especially for the sprinters," said Cavendish, who is four stage wins short of equalling Eddy Merckx's record of 34.

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