Cycling: Froome eyes joining legends as five-time Tour champions, holder Thomas also skipping Giro

Chris Froome (above) will aim to dethrone his Team Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas.
Chris Froome (above) will aim to dethrone his Team Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - British cyclist Chris Froome will focus on becoming only the fifth rider to win five Tour de France crowns this year and forgo defending his Giro d'Italia title, Team Sky announced on Tuesday (Jan 1).

The 33-year-old Kenyan-born cyclist will aim to dethrone his Team Sky team-mate Geraint Thomas, who will also target the sport's showpiece event.

If successful Froome would join Spaniard Miguel Indurain, French duo Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault - whose overall victory in 1985 is the last time a Frenchman won - and Belgium's Eddie Merckx as five-time winners.

American Lance Armstrong finished first seven times, but was stripped of all his victories for doping.

The highly-regarded 21-year-old Colombian Egan Bernal will lead Team Sky's challenge for the Giro and along with Froome and Thomas hope to deliver a fairy-tale end to British media company Sky's nine-year backing.

Froome, who in 2017 achieved the Tour and Vuelta double, said age had been a factor in what had been a "difficult decision".

"I've got some amazing memories from last year, but I think, with the Tour de France as my main objective, it's probably better that I skip the Giro d'Italia in 2019," the 33-year-old said in a team statement.

"I'm getting to the point in my career now where I'm starting to think about what kind of legacy I want to leave behind and if I am able to win the Tour de France for a fifth time and join that very elite group of bike riders - only four other people have ever done that - it would just be incredible."

Thomas, 32, said he might have focused on the Giro/Vuelta double had he not been defending his Tour crown.

"Having won the Tour, I'll have the No. 1 on my back and it would be sad not to go back and not to go back at 100 per cent as well," said Thomas, who will also compete in the Road World Championships in Yorkshire, England, in September.

Bernal, who showed his promise last year in winning the Tour of California and his home tour, said Italy was like a second home to him.

"I lived in Italy for three years, so I have a lot of friends there and I really like the Italian fans.

"I know the roads, I really like the Giro, and I want to do a good race there."

Bernal will begin his campaign defending his Tour Colombia title which gets under way in Medellin on Feb 12 and ends in nearby Alto de las Palmas on Feb 17. Froome will be riding alongside Bernal.

"It will be the first race with Froomey there so we want to do it well!" the Colombian said.

The Giro - the first of the year's three Grand Tours - runs from May 11 to June 2, and the Tour from July 6-28.