Chris Froome calling his participation in this year’s Tour de France “uncertain” is about as rich as one of Nigella Lawson’s chocolate mud cakes.
“The team and I will have to give it some careful consideration before we make any commitments to which of the Grand Tours I will compete in. If I did the Giro I may also be able to get myself back to top shape for the Vuelta and go there with a realistic chance of aiming for the win.”
Still, it’s what one recent winner said after the Tour de France route was unveiled last October.
More unbelievably, and in light Christian Prudhomme’s summation – “If you do not climb, you will not win the Tour in 2015,” – it came from a former winner who most regard as a climber rather than ‘rouleur’.
Chris Froome’s apparent insouciance began when he decided to go sailing – part of a “Team Sky team-building camp” – instead of attending the Paris presentation at the Palais des Congrès on October 22 last year. ‘Prudy’ would’ve loved that show of respect… Not!
So preoccupied was ‘Froomey’ on the waters of Weymouth, he published a statement of his thoughts on his website a matter of hours after the route announcement, saying in no uncertain terms his participation in this year’s Grande Boucle was “uncertain”.
With the 13.7km individual time trial followed eight days later by a 28km team time trial, the Kenyan-born Brit felt the lack of TT kilometres favoured riders like Contador and Quintana more than he. To such an extent, in fact, the 29-year-old was considering eschewing the Tour altogether this year, to instead try his hand at the Giro-Vuelta double.
“In the past I’ve only targeted one Grand Tour each season but it could be a good opportunity for me to focus seriously on two,” he said last October.
I’ll tell you what 2015 is going to be like for you, Chris: objective numero uno Tour de France; everything else, a distant second.
As evidenced by Wiggins’ desire to no longer race Grand Tours and their failed Plan B with Richie Porte last July after Froome crashed out on Stage 5, Team Sky, for now, has no other bona fide Tour winner. Their best hopes are with Peter Kennaugh or Leopold König, though both are still three, maybe four, years away from realising their full potential.
In other words, expect to see Froome there on July 4 along with Contador, Quintana, and, of course, the defending champ, Vincenzo Nibali.
Come to think of it, perhaps Froome learned his evasive skills from his Spanish archrival, since Contador is a master at deflecting attention. After crashing out of last year’s Tour he lamented via Twitter, “No Vuelta a España for me” – then days before the start announced he would be riding but only for a stage win… before taking the race lead after 10 stages and holding it to the finish.
At the Tour presentation last October, for once Red Herring Bertie, who will be attempting the rare Giro-Tour double, was being less disingenuous than usual. “In general, it’s a Tour where you have to arrive in good shape and stay fresh and well recovered until the very end,” he said, adding, “I like this Tour; it’s harder than what the last years have been and requires me to recover well from the Giro d’Italia.”
Naturally, Movistar’s climbing prodigy Quintana grinned at what he first saw – with one exception. “On paper, it suits me well. Very few kilometres of time trials, plenty of mountains… the only thing that could become worrisome is the pavé,” said the 25-year-old Colombian.
As for Nibali, the Sicilian will no doubt be hoping for a repeat of yesteryear with the cobblestones set to return this year on Stage 4 from Seraing to Cambrai.
Froome, if you remember, never made it as far as Arenberg; he crashed twice before the first secteur de pavé, the second sending him to the passenger seat of his Jaguar team car. “I actually quite enjoy the challenge of riding on the cobbles,” he said adding that, “The cobbles were not the cause of my departure from the Tour (last year).”
Again, not true… Does he think we’re all a bunch of village idiots? Mon dieu!
Yes, he crashed and fractured his wrist the day before, but it was the fear of riding the pavé with an injured wrist that caused him to come a cropper.
Arguably, the only skerrick of truth came when asked to name a favourite: “I think Contador will be the man to beat. You can never discount the likes of Quintana, Nibali and other GC contenders like Rodriguez and Valverde. Alberto is the guy who stands out, though.”
Now that, Monsieur Froome, is something I agree with!