By Florian Goncalves
On the face of it, it’s not wrong for a four-time Tour de France winner to laugh off the critics who say that he should retire. Froome, one of Britain’s most successful cyclists, has put his body through decades of ferocious competition and intensity to build a bulletproof legacy. But, while the Olympic silver medallist is saying all the right words, they appear to be hollower than they sound. Performances never lie, and Froome’s haven’t been steady or spectacular, which suggests that the people doubting him could be on to something.
A Long Road to Recovery
Part of the reason pundits and fans seem to think that Froome could be finished is down to his road to recovery – it’s been long, even for an athlete who broke his leg. The incident occurred in 2019, around two years ago, and Froome hasn’t done anything of note since.
Sure, the man born in Kenya has competed in massive events, including the grand tours that every cyclist is judged by, yet he has only managed to finish without taking a stage win or challenging the top of the GC leaderboard. The result is that the cycling betting for the 2021 Tour de France only makes the former champ a 50-1 shot, sneaking him into the top ten on the list of favourites.
Followers of professional cycling know that anything can happen, and Froome did have bona fide excuses regarding his most recent performance in the Tour de Romandie, but the future doesn’t look bright when you take the past 24 months into account.
Geraint Thomas’ Resurgence
In comparison, Geraint Thomas, a former teammate of Froome, seems to be hitting form at the perfect time. The Welshman has had his ups and downs, too, particularly since he claimed the yellow jersey in the General Classification in 2018.
Indeed, the rider hadn’t won an event after that, finally managing to break his duck at the Tour de Romandie. He even put a freak crash on the penultimate stage of the race behind him to finish strong and power home for the win. Although his form other than that is slightly weak, to say the least, the bookies have seen enough to make him the 13/2 third-favourite overall, behind Tadej Pogacar and Primoz Roglic.
With only a month to go before the Tour de France kicks off in earnest, Thomas can rest up and take confidence from his victory. Froome, unfortunately, finished 96th place overall and is severely lacking in self-belief.
The Start of Something
There’s no doubt that there is a lot of excitement regarding Israel Start-Up Nation, Froome’s new team. They are owned by billionaires who aim to promote cycling in Israel, and winning stages and races is at the forefront of the strategy. They have excellent team members, too – Michael Woods won a stage victory in the Tour de Romandie recently.
Still, they are a bit light compared to the likes of INEOS Grenadiers, a team that boasts Geraint Thomas, Egan Bernal, Tao Geoghegan Hart, and Richie Porte. All of them are excellent domestiques for Thomas’ second Tour bid, so much so that Bernal is fourth-favourite for the outright victory at 7/1.
So, while Israel Start-Up Nation could lead the sport for years to come, and Froome could be the figurehead who catapults them to dominance, it’s hard to look past the fact that the team isn’t ready just yet when compared to INEOS, UAE Team Emirates, and Jumbo–Visma.
As a result, it could continue to be a struggle for Chris Froome at the Tour de France in June. Of course, it would be amazing if he could roll back the years, but the evidence indicates it will be an uphill battle.