Team Sky climber Chris Froome has admitted that he faces a “massive challenge” to claim his fifth Tour de France title. As the route for the 2018 race was announced, all eyes were on the Brit to replicate this year’s heroics and enter an elite league of five Tour winners.

The 2018 Tour would be the shortest in its 105-year history. It would reportedly cover only 3,329km, staring from the Vendee region with stage nine having 21.7km of cobble road. Alped’Huez would return on stage 12 while the shortest stage remains 65km.

The race director Christian Prudhomme revealed that stage 17 has a new final climb of 16km with average 8% gradient and finish altitude of 2,215m. This makes it the shortest normal stage in the last 30 years. There would be a team time trial in stage three while stage 20 would have a hilly individual time trial from Saint-Pee-sur-Nivelle to Espelette.

The in-form Froome, 32, says he expected the organizers to remain innovative as usual to keep the Grand Tour challenging. He says the Tour de France tests “every aspect of cycling.”

Another top Brit cyclist Mark Cavendish said the 2018 edition is “absolutely brutal” based on early feelers. Cavendish has 30 stage wins in the Tour and he is chasing Eddy Merckx record of 34. He withdrew from this year’s edition after an accident on stage four.

Cavendish says some of the planned stages for next year’s race are some of the “toughest stages” he has ever seen. He added that not many sprinters would finish the race in Paris.

Despite the tougher stages, Froome is expected to win his fifth Tour in 2018. He was awarded the 2017 Velo d’Or –by the Velo Magazine for being the Rider of the Year – for the third time after winning it in 2013 and 2015.

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