Sunday, 23 July 2017
Froome ever the diplomat.
I’ve been a cyclist all my life and I’ve followed the Tour de France ever since I owned my first TV set. I don’t reserve my support for Brits. Bernard Hinault was a particular favourite, Steven Roche another.
Latterly, with the pre eminence of the Sky team we’ve been treated to dominance on the continent that has never been there before. Bradley Wiggins was a colourful winner but even when he was taking the plaudits on the Champs Elysees there was a gangly figure about to take his crown, Chris Froome. Froome is an enigma, born in Africa, he’s nevertheless a Brit but where Wiggins was quickly bestowed with a knighthood after his one win Froome has had to be content with an OBE. Now, after his fourth title that has to be put right.
This year’s contest was deliberately skewed away from Froome by the choosing of a route designed to appeal to his competitors. He still won. I don’t complain about that and I suspect neither would Froome. It’s not particularly in the competition’s interest to have one man dominating but the fact remains that Froome is stage racing and particularly the Tour de France’s tour de force. He can’t stop winning it.
Froome specialises in mountain finishes and time trials. They were reduced this year. Insofar as it’s possible to feel sympathy for the French it’s rather like us with football. They’re supposedly the dominant nation in cycling yet they can’t win the TDF to save their lives. Their best hope, Romain Bardet having finished second last year, finished third this. He was probably only on the podium at all due to Sky’s disinclination to have their own man, Mikel Lander upset the applecart by gaining the two seconds he needed to claim a podium finish himself.
Through it all Froome just got on with the job of securing the race with what he does best, the time trial. He also has the best team behind him in Sky for whom the architect of all the success, Sir Dave Brailsford, has rather blotted his copybook of late resulting in Froome getting perhaps more flack on the roadside than is strictly necessary. Brailsford got a knighthood too. Froome ignores all that thanking the disappointed French fans for their fantastic support in halting French. When I think of some superannuated football players strutting their pampered stuff around the stadia of the world picking up millions for doing not a lot you have to admire these cycling athletes even if they don’t help themselves occasionally.
So far Froome has avoided the doping inspectors attention. I personally believe he is clean. I do hope I’m right in that, I’d be most surprised if he wasn’t, that just wouldn’t be the Froome way.