Chris Froome is reportedly seeking a mid-season transfer from Team Ineos, with speculation that he may be wearing the colours of a rival team at the Tour de France, which is currently due to start in Nice on 29 August.
The 34-year-old is seeking what would be a record-equalling fifth victory in the race, the last two editions of which have been won by his team-mates Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal.
Froome missed last year’s race through injury, meaning that August could be the first time Team Ineos takes to the start line with three riders who have won the race.
Bernal has made it clear that he does not want to ride in support of another member of the team this year, with Cyclingnews.com suggesting that as a possible reason for Froome looking to ride for a rival team.
Froome’s contract with Team Ineos expires at the end of the year. He has not signed a contract extension yet and is reported to be in discussions with several teams for next season.
Under UCI rules, transfer announcements can only be made from 1 August, which in any other year would be a week or so after the Tour de France has finished.
Almost always, riders officially switch teams at the end of the year when their contract expires, but mid-season moves are permitted under UCI regulations, so long as all parties agree and the switch is made in the first two weeks of August.
But with the Tour de France postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and currently scheduled to start at the end of August, a mid-season switch could see Froome join a team where he has undisputed leadership, while also resolving a potential source of conflict within Team Ineos itself.
According to Cyclingnews.com, two teams have contacted Froome regarding a potential move either in August, or at the end of the year.
The rider himself did not comment on that speculation when contacted by the website, but said: “Following my crash last year and subsequent recovery I am extremely confident that I can return to Tour winning form. Which team that will be with beyond 2020, I don’t know yet.
“I have no intention of retiring any time soon,” he added. “If anything, the crash has given me a renewed focus and drive. I have worked harder than I ever have to get back to where I am. I won’t let that be for nothing.”
While Froome, a founder member of Team Ineos since it began racing as Team Sky in 2010, is determined to secure a fifth victory in the race, time is not on his side.
He turns 35 next Tuesday, and if the Tour de France did go ahead this year and Froome won it, he would be the second-oldest winner in the 117-year history of the race, and the oldest in 98 years.
Only the Belgian rider, Firmin Lambot, who was aged 36 years 180 days when he secured his second overall victory in the race in 1922, has won the race at an older age than Froome is now.
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