Monday, 11 September 2017
Chris Froome. Is he the greatest British sportsman?
Regular readers will know I do like my bike racing and I’ve been following the Tour De France for more years than I care to remember. I do the occasional wobble round the countryside too.
For years professional bike racing has mainly been the preserve of the continentals with the occasional foray by a lone Brit trying to break into a pretty closed shop. It’s tough, very tough and therein lies cycling’s image problem. It’s so difficult that some riders have succumbed to nefarious practices to try to get an edge in the world of two wheels.
The continents hold on the world of cycling has been greatly loosened by the emergence of Team Sky whose reason for existence has been to wrest the Tour de France crown from the establishment and they’ve been very successful at that firstly with the engaging and charismatic Bradley Wiggins and latterly by a man who could not be so described, Chris Froome.
Froome has the demeanour of, maybe a lawyer or accountant. Unfailingly polite, a very nice man. Does he have a core of steel? No, it’s Kryptonite. Froome soon saw off the enigmatic Wiggins and established himself as Sky team leader for the TDF. He’d previously been labouring under a mysterious illness which almost saw him ditched by Sky who could see his potential but the results didn’t follow. Once they’d got to the bottom of the health issues Froome was off. Like a rocket.
Froomes problem was/is, that the continentals, particularly the French do not like being upstaged in their own back garden. They are to cycling what we English are to football. We invented it and we can’t seem to win at it, with one exception and that was a long time ago. So it is with our Gallic neighbours. It’s one thing being beaten by a Spaniard or Belgian but a Brit? Non, non, non!
Nevertheless, beaten they are but now Froome has added the Vuelta a España, the Tour of Spain to his collection a feat so unlikely that it has only been achieved twice before. It’s basically a 4000+ mile bike ride in a matter of weeks with climbs so difficult it frankly shouldn’t be allowed.
Through all this Froome is unstintingly complimentary, it’s all down to my team mates, the crowd are a great help, vive la France! The Spanish are gents. (They are by comparison to the roadside French race fans)
Behind all this lies the problem that won’t go away, doping. He must be cheating say the uncharacteristically unsportsmanlike French. Pah!
Sky was formed specifically to buck the trend, to be whiter than white, transparent. Anyone caught cheating is out. They’ve kept to their word but also their own halo has slipped a bit over some legal but questionable historical practices involving Wiggins. Their previously untouchable head honcho, Sir Dave Brailsford is no longer regarded in quite the same way. He got a knighthood on the strength of Wiggins winning the TDF and his work with British cycling, so did Wiggins. Froome by comparison couldn’t even get on the podium in the annual Sports Personality of the Year.
Perhaps therein lies Froomes problem. There’s grit, determination, talent but personality? Not a lot to be honest but nevertheless what he has achieved and I’ll say it here, by honest methods, I’m sure of that, puts him right up there in my view and if he’s nominated I’ll be voting for him in Sports Personality and if he doesn’t get a knighthood after this well he damn well should.