BERGEN, Norway (AFP) — Chris Froome has a chance to end his best-ever season on yet another high when he tackles the hilly world time trial championships course in Bergen, Norway Wednesday.
A punishing final 3.4km climb on the 31km course with gradients reaching 10 percent will favor specialist climbers like Froome over the freight-train time trialists like four-time world champion Tony Martin.
Many people believe the climb will almost certainly rule out the more regular powerhouse racers against the clock leaving Froome, Giro d’Italia champion Tom Dumoulin, Australia’s Rohan Dennis, and Ilnur Zakarin of Russia to battle for honors.
German Martin, for one, is angry that his title defense has been compromised.
“The finale of the parcours of the individual time trial is way too hard for me,” said the 32-year-old, winner in 2011, 2012, 2013, and last year.
“I’ll be the outgoing world champion and so I’ll still give it everything and I’ll fight hard but I know I’ve got very little chance of success.”
The course should suit Dumoulin and Froome, the silver and bronze medallists at last year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, who are both world-class time trialists as well as strong climbers.
Froome has already enjoyed an incredible year, winning the Tour de France for the fourth time and Vuelta a España for the first time.
The only grand tour he missed out on was the Giro, won by Dumoulin.
But Froome’s attention has been diverted from his final race of 2017 to questions about his nationality.
The 32-year-old was born in Kenya, brought up in South Africa and lives in Monaco. But his parents are British and he insists he is as proud as anyone to represent Britain.
“Absolutely there is national pride for me,” he told the Times newspaper. “I think a lot of people do battle to relate to me in that sense, certainly back home in Britain.
“My whole family is British and we had very British values growing up. Christmas was a big roast, Yorkshire puddings, our gran’ would cook up a storm.”
Froome is by far Britain’s most successful road cyclist ever, yet his popularity pales in comparison to that of the country’s first — and only other — Tour winner, Bradley Wiggins.
“I have never lived in Britain so, if people don’t feel I am British, that’s their opinion, fine,” added Froome.
“But I also know how I feel. I wouldn’t look at my family for one second and think it anything other than British.”
If he was to win on Wednesday, Froome would become only the third British world time trial champion behind Chris Boardman, the inaugural winner in 1994, and — almost inevitably — his gigantic cycling shadow Wiggins in 2014.