blog entries

Froome: Quietly Brilliant

By rights come Monday morning the front and back pages should feature extensive coverage of Chris Froome and his Vuelta win -  but we doubt that the press will report his exploits in the same way they would with other sportspeople. With his publicity shy lifetyle and quiet demanour Froome just does not seem to have connected as widely with our Olympic  obsessed public and press.

In 42 days of Grand Tour racing this year Froome has led for 34 of them, which given the level of pressure and demands that this brings on the incumbent race leader is a remarkable statistic. Froome as usual has handled this with his customary grace and equanimity and at least in Spain he's more highly regarded and doesn't have to suffer piss throwing!  He has marshalled both his teams and his own resouces with ruthless efficiency - Wout Poels, Mikel Nieve and the incredible Gianni Moscon have been front and centre whenever the route has kicked upwards.They have, if not comfortably, then with steely resilience, controlled much of the race and apart from a few kilometers on the climb of Los Muchachos(where Froome lost around 1 minute to Nibali) the race has never really been in doubt. That said it has still been an exciting Vuelta - a few protagonists have chanced their arm and none more so than Alberto Contador who has ridden with panache and daring throughout  - culminating in his brilliant ascent of the Angliru.

Sky are regularly accussed of strangling the life out of stage races but for all that they are increasingly the team that throws curveballs into the tactical mix and keeps their opponents guessing. Froome is the master of this and whilst he looks ungainly on the bikes his handling skills and racing nous are weapons he fully employs in the act of despatching his opponents. For every explosive dig or unexpected attack they try he gives the pain back to them in spades and if it seems a huge understatement to mention a competitive spirit in so great a sportsman then I apologise -  but his efforts in the last stage of the Vuelta to keep the green(points) jersey provide at the very least a few chuckles. Froome going up against a horde of charging Quick Step sprinters is a sight that few would expect to see but is not only hugely entertaining but also testament to his huge appetite for winning.

For all that we can debate Froome and Sky's modus operandii(and they have countless detractors), what cannot be questioned is how the man from Kenya has slowly been climbing the list of cycling greats. Four Tour de France wins and now a Vuelta top a palmares that few have, or will, better and listening to Froome being interviewed there can be little doubt that he's a long way from hanging up his cleats. A tilt next year for a record equlling fifth TdF is almost a given and who would bet against him going for the Giro once he's achieved that?

Regardless of what future goals he sets for himself he has this evening achieved what no-one else had previously done. Hinault and Anquetil both completed the Vuelta/Tour double but both did so when the Vuleta was a spring epic and not when it followed only 27 days after the Grand Boucle. It's still a stretch to suggest that Froome is on a par with such luminaries but by the time he retires then he may well be a good bet in any debate about Britains best ever cyclist - although personally I'd still vote for Beryl Burton!!

Chapeau Froomdog - think you now might find winning fans even easier than you do winning Grand Tours.