Who’s afraid of Christopher Froome?

Tim Renowden Columnist

By Tim Renowden, Tim Renowden is a Roar Expert

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    Chris Froome won the 2016 Tour in a relative canter. But was it a boring race? (Image: Team Sky).

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    After his overall win in the Tour of Oman, dancing away from his rivals on the slopes of Green Mountain, it’s clear Chris Froome isn’t suffering any hangovers from his massive 2013 campaign.

    Everyone should be afraid.

    A burst of high-cadence acceleration was all it took to blow away Tejay van Garderen (BMC) and former Team Sky lieutenant Rigoberto Uran (Omega Pharma-Quick Step).

    As for Vincenzo Nibali, a man who many consider Froome’s most serious rival for the Tour de France, he was never truly in the hunt. With his wife at home about to give birth to their first child, it’s understandable if Nibali’s head wasn’t fully in the game in Oman.

    Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), Robert Gesink (Belkin), and Roman Kreuziger (Tinkoff-Saxo) were all thereabouts, but had no answer to Froome’s attack.

    After stage five, Froome gave his perspective on his performance to Cycling Central:

    “From a personal perspective I wanted to see where I was, where my condition was, and I think today I got the answer I wanted.

    “Winning here is always more psychological than anything else. At this point it’s still too early to say anything in terms of build-up to the Tour de France, but it’s definitely good to have it in there.”

    As he says, it’s far too early to draw too many conclusions about the form of other riders, but what the Tour of Oman shows is Froome definitely hasn’t spent his winter wining and dining at gala dinners.

    It shows Froome still has the hunger that seemed to desert Sir Bradley Wiggins after his own magical 2012 season (remember a clearly-overweight Wiggins struggling to find form and condition leading into last year’s Giro d’Italia).

    Smashing his rivals so early in the season is such a psychological victory because everyone can see that, barring accident or injury, there will be no slackening off from the man who dominated every stage race he entered last year.

    The effects of this can be seen already in the list of general classification riders shifting their sights to the Giro d’Italia. It’s almost an admission that Froome can’t be beaten in the Tour this year, so let’s aim for the next biggest prize.

    It’s a coup for the Italian race, which begins in Ireland on May ninth. You could even argue the list of GC contenders for the Giro looks better than for the Tour.

    In fact I will: the best GC riders, Froome excepted, are not riding the Tour de France this year.

    Joaquim Rodriguez, Cadel Evans, Rigoberto Uran, Nairo Quintana and Froome’s teammate Richie Porte are all aiming squarely for the Giro. All except Uran targeted the Tour in 2013.

    That’s some serious talent on display in May.

    In July, Froome’s main rivals will be Nibali, Alberto Contador, Rui Costa, Tejay van Garderen, Robert Gesink, and Alejandro Valverde.

    Nibali is one of my favourites, but he’ll have to overcome the disruption of new fatherhood, as well as Team Sky.

    Contador has looked past his best for two years, but he took his first win in over a year in stage four of the Volta ao Algarve this week. Hey, that’s better than nothing, but he didn’t beat anyone as good as the riders Froome just thrashed.

    I’ll need to see a lot more before I rate Contador as a serious GC threat again.

    Valverde is a similar story: he defeated Richie Porte on home turf in the Ruta del Sol this week, cleaning up three stage wins in the process. But he’ll be 34 by the time the Tour begins, and he’s never made the podium there.

    Many astute observers don’t think he’s even the best GC rider in his team.

    Yes, Valverde’s still deadly in stages that suit him, but can he go three weeks without a bad day in the high mountains?

    Costa is all class, but his best results have come in single-day races and as a stage winner. His highest Grand Tour GC finish to date is 18th, at the Tour in 2012.

    He’s unproven as a Grand Tour GC contender, despite very strong performances in shorter stage races like the Tour de Suisse.

    Gesink and van Garderen are well known for their buckets of potential without ever really looking like winning a Grand Tour.

    As the season progresses we’ll have a better idea of who is really in form and who’s playing catch-up.

    But for my money, there are more genuine GC riders aiming for the Giro than I can remember.

    Why would the Giro, a great race but undeniably less prestigious than its French cousin, attract a more competitive field than the Tour?

    Because they think Froome can’t be beaten.

    Tim Renowden
    Tim Renowden

    Tim Renowden has been following professional cycling closely since Indurain won his first Tour. An ex-runner, now a club grade bike racer, Tim tweets about sport at @megabicicleta.

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    The Crowd Says (12)

    • Editor

      February 25th 2014 @ 12:00pm
      Tristan Rayner said | February 25th 2014 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

      Heart-breakingly accurate on why the Giro has such a strong line-up this year Tim. Everyone’s afraid… at least when they’re on their bikes.

      • Columnist

        February 25th 2014 @ 12:26pm
        Tim Renowden said | February 25th 2014 @ 12:26pm | ! Report

        It’s only a problem for the Tour. For those of us who think the Giro is usually a more exciting race anyway, it’s all good!

        • Editor

          February 25th 2014 @ 4:27pm
          Tristan Rayner said | February 25th 2014 @ 4:27pm | ! Report

          I don’t need to tell you this, but the problem is that the Tour is about the only bike race that Australians will take notice of, outside of the TDU and Olympics!

          • February 25th 2014 @ 4:37pm
            Clark Rasmussen said | February 25th 2014 @ 4:37pm | ! Report

            And I never took notice of the Vuelta until last year, when it was one of the best grand tours in many years. But I’m biased, being from the US. Now I follow the Roar news, way to go guys, great analysis.

    • February 25th 2014 @ 1:07pm
      bill said | February 25th 2014 @ 1:07pm | ! Report

      agree on Valverde – Quintana is their best – hence targeting the Giro. Would be interesting to know if Cadel got the choice or if Teejay wanted to go to the tour…

    • February 25th 2014 @ 1:31pm
      Clark Rasmussen said | February 25th 2014 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

      Great article, thanks for spelling it out so clearly. My only disagreement is that given the way Froome is riding, I don’t think Nibali’s best form could beat him this year. But we’ll see. Looking forward to the Giro!

    • February 25th 2014 @ 1:52pm
      rgmerk said | February 25th 2014 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

      Geez, if you were an aspiring GT GC rider, you’d be tempted to have a crack at the Tour. Probably a better chance of a podium than the Giro, and if Froome falls off his bike…

      As for Contador, to be blunt, he was up there with the very fastest hillclimbers in history, he got busted for doping (in complicated circumstances, but CAS called it a bust nonetheless). Now, despite being in what should be his prime as a cyclist and with no obvious injury or illness, he’s come back at a still high but distinctly terrestrial level. Draw your own conclusions about what this means for his prospects of matching Froome in 2013 form.

      • Columnist

        February 25th 2014 @ 2:49pm
        Tim Renowden said | February 25th 2014 @ 2:49pm | ! Report

        “if Froome falls off his bike…”

        Bingo! Last year Froome crashed into a hay bale in the nervous first stage or two of the Tour, but avoided injury and we know the rest. How easily something like that could happen again, but with a very different result. It takes a lot to win a grand tour, but they can be lost in a second.

    • Roar Rookie

      February 26th 2014 @ 10:25am
      Justin Curran said | February 26th 2014 @ 10:25am | ! Report

      I don’t know what you think Tim, but It seems to me that Nibali and Astana are the only team that seems likely to challenge the Sky juggernaut. I can confirm from recent experience that one’s first baby is undoubtedly a distraction. Whether or not Nibali can have an adequate preparation for the tour remains to be seen. If he isn’t firing on all cylinders come July we may see another uni dimensional tour.

    • February 26th 2014 @ 8:28pm
      Al-Bo said | February 26th 2014 @ 8:28pm | ! Report

      I’m afraid of Chris Froome. But largely because he looks like a malevolent skeleton.

      • Columnist

        February 26th 2014 @ 10:03pm
        Tim Renowden said | February 26th 2014 @ 10:03pm | ! Report

        Totally. He could come as himself to Halloween, especially in the new transparent skinsuit with his bones showing through.

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