Frustrated Froome insists he will get his chance to lead Sky in the Tour de France

Team Sky rider committed to supporting Wiggins despite knowing he can win this year's race, but says debt will be repaid

by Simon_MacMichael   July 15, 2012  

Red jersey Froome works for Bradley Wiggins (copyright: Tour of Spain/Graham Watson).jpg

Chris Froome insists that he will get an opportunity to lead Team Sky in the Tour de France and says that chance could come as early as next year, depending on the parcours of the 100th edition of the race. In an interview published today in French sports daily L’Equipe, the 27-year-old reveals his frustration at having to play a supporting role to Bradley Wiggins in a race he believes he can win, but is confident that the debt will be repaid in the future.

“Everyone is wondering about me, I’m aware of that and I know that I would be capable of winning this Tour, but not with Sky,” he acknowledged in the interview, the full version of which appears in the print edition of the newspaper. “We have drawn up a strategy around Wiggins and everyone respects that.”

The Kenya-born British rider was speaking at the end of a week that has seen him climb to second overall, 2 minutes 5 seconds behind his team-mate. The gap between the two men would be much narrower had Froome not punctured ahead of the finale of Stage 1 in Seraing last Sunday.

However, he pointed out that Team Sky had gone into the race with the goal of securing an overall victory for Wiggins in Paris next Sunday. That remains the objective and Froome said he fully intends to play his part in making that happen, despite it being put to him that he is the stronger climber of the pair.

“I am without doubt, but in this Tour there is more than 100 kilometres of time trialling, so it was decided internally that I would accompany Wiggins on the climbs with a regular rhythm, he would make the difference in the time trials, that’s how we will win the Tour.”

Froome, winner of Stage 7 of the race at La Planche des Belles Filles, was at the centre of discussion after Thursday’s Stage 11 when he put in a sudden burst of accelaration that briefly seemed to have Wiggins in trouble before he checked his speed.

The precise reasons for that move remain unclear – Wiggins, perhaps diplomatically, attributed it to his team mate mishearing an order to slow as one to go, while some have wondered whether Froome saw an opportunity to put time into Liquigas-Cannondale’s Vincenzo Nibali and defending champion Cadel Evans, the latter having already been distanced.

Speaking of that episode, Froome said only that Wiggins “was perhaps a bit nervous, tired. The climbs, they’re not his strong point.”

It was put to Froome that during that stage, he seemed to be very agitated, checking his radio, as though bubbling with impatience. He was asked whether he felt frustrated.

“The earpiece… Yes, I kept it plugged in, I wanted to know where people were, the distance to the escapees. If they only had 20 seconds, we would increase the rhythm to catch them. As for the other part, it is frustrating, you don’t often get a chance during your lifetime to win the Tour de France,” he confessed.

Froome was asked what would happen if Wiggins found himself in trouble on today’s stage from Limoux to Foix, which takes in two big climbs in the Pyrenees.

“If I have the feeling that we could lose the Tour, I will go with the strongest riders, whether that be Evans or Nibali, to keep out chances alive, to ensure the presence of Sky.”

The wording of the reply is slightly ambiguous; it’s unclear whether that’s Froome’s personal view, or whether it reflects team orders, although certainly with two riders at the top of the GC, both of them strong against the clock, the race is Sky’s to win and sacrificing the chances of the man lying second to help the maillot jaune if he were in trouble would not seem the most sensible strategy.

Froome, however, was clear about the man he sees as the greatest threat – Nibali, who now lies third on GC. “Cadel lost a minute at Toussuire, he will be hard-pressed to turn the situation around,” he explained.

The respective merits of the two Team Sky riders have been hotly debated since last year’s Vuelta, where Froome finished second to then Geox-TMC rider Juan Jose Cobo, with Wiggins, who decided to target the race after his early departure from the Tour de France due to a broken collarbone, completing the podium in third place.

During that race, Team Sky courted controversy after Froome, who had taken the leader’s red jersey after finishing the Stage 10 individual time trial in Salamanca in second place behind Tony Martin, found himself working as a domestique for Wiggins in the following stage.

His team mate would move into the overall lead on that stage and keep the jersey for three more days, but Froome proved much stronger in the mountain stages that decided the race, moving to second place overall as Wiggins lost more than half a minute to him on the Angliru in Stage 15, won by Cobo.

Froome himself went on to win Stage 17 at Peña Cabarga on the final day in the high mountains, and briefly appeared to be riding towards the overall victory as he dropped Cobo on the way to the summit; the Spaniard recovered, however, finishing 1 second behind Froome to keep what would turn out to be a race-winning advantage of 13 seconds over him.

“In the Vuelta, I could have won, it’s true, but because there were more severe climbs, suitable for me, such as the Angliru with its ramps of 20 per cent,” reflected Froome. “In this Tour that’s far from the case, it’s lacking the high mountains. Next year, if the Tour is designed differently, we’ll review my plans.

“It all depends on the parcours,” he went on. “If there are cols, I hope that Sky will be honest with me and that all my team mates would put themselves at my service, with the same loyalty that I am demonstrating today.”

All that is known for now is that the race will begin on Corsica with three road stages, the first time it has visited the island, before recommencing on the mainland with a team time trial in Nice, close to Froome's home in Monaco. Stage 5 will start at nearby Cagnes-sur-Mer, but that’s as much as is officially known at the moment.

Froome believes that Wiggins, whom he describes as “a man of his word” would be one of those who might support him if he were designated leader, saying: “I know he’ll help me.”

It’s unlikely, however, that even if he were designated team leader, Froome would benefit from the same level of support that Wiggins has enjoyed in the past fortnight; with the Olympic road race Mark Cavendish’s principal target this year and the green jersey likely to head to Peter Sagan or André Greipel, the current world champion will expect more backing from his team than he has received in the current edition of the Tour to help him win it back.

Following last year’s Vuelta, Froome signed a three-year contract to remain at Team Sky, which he had joined from Barloworld two years earlier. Before renewing his deal with his current team, however, he also had an approach from Team Saxo Bank whose owner, Bjarne Riis, said last week that he still believes Froome will win this year’s Tour.

The rider was asked whether it was a difficult decision to stay put. “Not at all,” he replied. “My intuition told me to stay at Team Sky. I’m happy there. Moreover, I can’t imagine Contador riding for me.”

L’Equipe pointed out that wining the Tour sets a rider up for life, being worth 3 or 4 million euro for the three or four years after victory.

“I’m aware of that, I know that it could change my life. It’s for that reason that it’s a great, a very great sacrifice,” Froome admitted.

And while there may be other Tours to win, he also agreed that he risks missing writing his name in the record books for another reason. “It would be an historic moment to be the first, for Britain and for Sky. The problem, in effect, is to be the first."

He added: “I can’t lie to you, it’s difficult, truly, but it’s my job.”

 

Note: Quotes from Chris Froome have been translated from the French article in L'Equipe, but the original interview was reportedly conducted in Italian; it is possible that some nuances may have been lost in the various translations.

15 user comments

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Interesting. I think Froome is the only serious threat to Wiggins. Could he beat him? I'm not so sure, Wiggins has Time Trialled well both in the ITT stages, and up the mountains. Even when Froome had to hold up, we'll never know if Brad was being dropped or if he was still at the same measured pace, waiting for Froome's group to tire.

Also major respect for doing his job. Cycling is a team sport and that sometimes means doing things you don't like/want for the team I guess.

posted by tao24 [38 posts]
15th July 2012 - 13:23

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When Chris went on that climb there I saw no reaction from Brad. I appreciate that their climbing style is different but Brad didn't even get out of the saddle. No panic, no concern. That made me wonder if it was planned, to see if Nibali could go with Chris, because Nibali reacted strongly then Chris was told to back off and stick with Brad as there's no point dragging a rival to the finish.

Maybe Chris is stronger but to with the Tour you also need a bit of luck, Brad was unlucky last year to fall and abandon on stage 7, this year Chris is over 2 minutes down partly because of a puncture, bad luck. But he's lost time to Brad on the Prologue and ITT... he'd not have got that back on one mountain.

Either way it's great to see them both at the top, Hope they are both there, in any order, at the end. Go Sky!

posted by Bagpuss [98 posts]
15th July 2012 - 13:44

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I look forward to Froome winning future grand tours but he was signed to do a job this year and it's a little unprofessional to keep stating his loyalty and frustration in equal measure. He's playing a dangerous game and should do his job and keep his mouth shut. I'm sure Wiggins is furious - hence his work yesterday for the 'gentleman' Bosun Hagen.

Froome could end up in the Morecambe & Wise scenario - moving to a lesser team and realising that he's actually less than the sum of his parts without a specific team built around him.

Stepping back though - we're in the bizarre position where we're bickering about which Brit should win this year's TDF..... Wink

Maybe L'Equipe are hoping Sky will dissolve through infighting. It can't be great for the French to give the TDF to an Aussie and then a Brit.

MercuryOne

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [932 posts]
15th July 2012 - 14:06

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As well as being a super domestique for Wiggins, Froome has benefited from an incredibly strong team effort from EBH, Rogers and Porte. It was them that set the pace on stage 7 and shelled out riders such as Frank Schleck and VDB, amongst others, distancing potential threats to Wiggins. As an attacking climber, Froome is better than Wiggins. However Wiggins is a better time triallist and with so much of this tour being against the clock, then the smart money should side with Wiggins.

posted by petejuk [25 posts]
15th July 2012 - 14:48

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If he ain't happy, he'll have to go, simple.

antonio

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posted by antonio [899 posts]
15th July 2012 - 14:50

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I think its sensible to work for Wiggins in the remainder of this tour. although Froome is clearly the better prospect for future tours. I wrote an article about my views here --> http://cyclingsam1blog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/froome-vs-wiggins.html Smile

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posted by samjackson54 [60 posts]
15th July 2012 - 15:49

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MercuryOne wrote:
I look forward to Froome winning future grand tours but he was signed to do a job this year and it's a little unprofessional to keep stating his loyalty and frustration in equal measure. He's playing a dangerous game and should do his job and keep his mouth shut. I'm sure Wiggins is furious - hence his work yesterday for the 'gentleman' Bosun Hagen.

Froome could end up in the Morecambe & Wise scenario - moving to a lesser team and realising that he's actually less than the sum of his parts without a specific team built around him.

Stepping back though - we're in the bizarre position where we're bickering about which Brit should win this year's TDF..... Wink

I agree with this 100% Seems like the classy thing to do would be to keep your mouth shut.

"I can't believe I ate the whole thing..."

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posted by Cooks [467 posts]
15th July 2012 - 16:32

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Wiggo,... in the history books as the first Brit to win the TdF because his domestique didn't not crush him in the real hills... no matter how fast Wiggo is on the ITT... it wouldn't close the gap of mins Froome-dog could have and still can slap on "Sir Sideburns" in the thin mtn air Wink

Congrats to Wiggo... if he still manages to beat Nibali... Good on Wiggo... good on Sky... they put together a heck of a team just before the Olympics. Bravo! I'm sure another Knight-ing will follow, but we'll know who really was the best rider of the race. Thats how I see it. Cheers!

posted by dino [57 posts]
15th July 2012 - 18:02

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MercuryOne wrote:

Froome could end up in the Morecambe & Wise scenario - moving to a lesser team and realising that he's actually less than the sum of his parts without a specific team built around him.


eh? did Morecambe ever leave Wise then or vice versa?

I know its off topic but I feel this is important to know.

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posted by TheHatter [808 posts]
15th July 2012 - 19:13

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petejuk wrote:
As well as being a super domestique for Wiggins, Froome has benefited from an incredibly strong team effort from EBH, Rogers and Porte. It was them that set the pace on stage 7 and shelled out riders such as Frank Schleck and VDB, amongst others, distancing potential threats to Wiggins.

Yes, exactly. They're not just pulling Wiggins up the hill until the last 4k, they're also pulling Froome. If he thinks he'd be second in the Tour without them - and their sacrifice of their own potential as GC contenders - he's wrong (and a bit dim). I think he's a really exciting rider to watch but he should have kept his mouth shut at least until the end of the race.

posted by msw [124 posts]
15th July 2012 - 22:13

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I was referring to Morecambe & Wise switching to ITV for the money after building their success at the BBC. I realise the 1970's ( and steel frames - bikes and Eric's glasses) are a mythical decade for some of you. Big Grin

MercuryOne

Silly me. You're probably right....

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posted by MercuryOne [932 posts]
15th July 2012 - 22:59

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Froome may well be the stronger attacking climber, but Brad has never been about explosive attacks. Saying Chris is a better climber is no different to saying that Brad is a better TTer or Cav the better sprinter.

Time-trialling (and a bit of luck, so far) are on Brad's side. Just because Van Garderen had to wait for Cadel doesn't mean Tejay could win it either.

Froome knew the score when he got frustrated in the Vuelta last year. He also states in the article that Brad is the best GC bet this year because of the TTs. He's not daft, and he will win stuff. This is just media/internet hyperbole stirring up tension where there is none.

ANYWAY, this whole thing is surreal. Right now, it looks like a Brit (either one!) is going to win the Tour, and that, quite frankly, is fan-f***in-tastical.

Dodging the saccadic masking

posted by notfastenough [2607 posts]
16th July 2012 - 11:34

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C'mon, road.cc, this isn't real news as you well know. Who gives a monkey's what Froome said. What did Froome's MISSUS have to tweet about it all? And then what did Wiggins's missus tweet back and who then said what next and how did it all kick off and who was the most bitchy? Real news, remember?

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posted by dullard [140 posts]
16th July 2012 - 16:35

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Froome may well be frustrated at whats happened but he did not come into the tour with the form that Wiggins did and just like the Vuelta he has surpassed what everyone in Sky wanted him to do.

His time will come no doubt about that and personally i can see him winning multiple grand tours especially if there are a lot of mounbtains to cover.

He may well end up the greatest British road cyclist in my humble opinion.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

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posted by stumps [2430 posts]
16th July 2012 - 18:56

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You just can't judge matters like "could Froome win the Tour if he wasn't in Wiggos service", because that would change the whole dynamic of the race.

Froome has different vulnerabilities to Wiggo, would ride differently because he has different strengths and weaknesses and so would tend to be attacked differently - so then you need riders capable of attacking him differently, supported differently. It changes the whole game.

In all of these cases, if you then start imagining what might happen with Froome on a different team, then you really are throwing darts in the dark ...

I think we should simply be happy that we have a Tour where a team based in the UK and built on the foundations first laid by riders who went to the continent "on a wing and prayer" decades ago and more latterly, by a resurgent British Cycling, is able to stamp it's authority on the race, and that we have the prospect of a worthy winner from Britain.

Let the "if only's" and the "next years" look after themselves, at least for the moment. We'll see an interesting shake-out across the board, not just at Sky, through the autumn and winter months ...

This week I have mostly been riding a Mondiale in Deda V107 with Campagnolo Super Record 11 ...

posted by velotech_cycling [72 posts]
19th July 2012 - 17:54

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