Soon-to-be four-time Tour champ Chris Froome fielded questions about the race, his career, and cycling in general prior to Sunday's finale.
MARSEILLE, France (VN) — Chris Froome will ride into Paris on Sunday to claim his fourth Tour de France title having survived a topsy-turvy race that afforded few opportunities for time gaps.
As is tradition for Tour champions, Froome held a press conference after Saturday’s stage 20, and fielded questions about the race, his career, and cycling in general.
VeloNews asked Froome about the budgetary inequity that is present amongst the WorldTour teams. Froome’s Team Sky operates with the largest payroll in pro cycling, with an annual budget of around $40 million, according to multiple reports. The payroll is more than double that of many other WorldTour squads.
Froome compared cycling to European soccer, where clubs are often free to spend as much as possible without a salary cap. He believes a salary cap in cycling may actually have a negative impact on the sport.
“If you just look at football for example. You look at the best teams typically win the most and can then afford to buy the biggest players and the best players and it’s almost this cycle,” he said. “We’ve found a similar thing in cycling.
“If you just look at football for example. You look at the best teams typically win the most and can then afford to buy the biggest players and the best players”
“Obviously I think my teammates have shown that they are the strongest team in the race. We’ve won the team classification. Mikel Landa has just missed the podium as well.
“It’s been an amazing race for us this year,” the 32-year-old continued. “If that’s all due to budget — I can’t say. I personally think that is how professional sport works. If a team is successful it is able to reinvest its funds and develop the sport further.
“If you put a budgetary cap maybe it doesn’t quite incentivize successes they way it is at the moment.”
Reporters also asked Froome about team Sky’s controversial media strategy during this year’s Tour de France. Typically, teams that are contending for the general classification hold press conferences during the tour’s rest days.
This year Sky bucked tradition and did away with those press conferences, instead inviting a select group of television and radio broadcast media to its hotel for the race’s second rest day.
A media controversy then sprung up after David Brailsford, Sky’s principal, asked a reporter from the website Cyclingnews.com to leave the media availability on the second rest day.
Froome said the media strategy was done by his request.
“I think it is something I decided with the team — not to do big press conferences on rest days. I was still doing media but not doing press conferences, more just because rest days are meant to be rest days, and a big press conference is certainly not conducive to recovery,” he claimed. “I felt as though it really helped me this year, being able to switch off on my rest days. That’s what those days are there for, otherwise they’d be called media days.”
“I think it is something I decided with the team — not to do big press conferences on rest days…rest days are meant to be rest days, and a big press conference is certainly not conducive to recovery”
Froome called the 2017 Tour de France a “three-week race in essence” due to the lack of decisive days. He said Sky came into the race with the objective of grabbing small time gaps on crucial stages, rather than targeting one or two stages for a decisive victory. So while he finished the race without a stage win, the conservative strategy paid off.
“Give the course we had this year it was always the tactic to ride a three week race and not go out to smash it for the stage win. It was always going to be a three week race this year in a sense of just chipping away on every stage and making sure there weren’t any massive losses on any days,” Froome explained. “Yes, I did suffer in the Pyrenees and lose 25 seconds on that stage to Peyragudes, but I’m extremely grateful it wasn’t any worse than that.
“Normally when you have a bad day in the mountains you can lose minutes.”
While Froome would not say whether the 2017 Tour de France was his toughest victory, he said that it was certainly his closest. In his mind, the victory was never assured until he finished Saturday’s time trial in Marseille.
“Coming into the stadium with Romain Bardet just ahead of me, and knowing that if I navigated the last two corners correctly that would be it for this year’s Tour de France battle [was when he knew],” Froome admitted.
“There have been ups and downs over the last three weeks but I think it has been a grand tour in a sense that it has been about the three weeks.
“It wasn’t about one single stage,” he concluded. “That is what grand tour racing is.”