RENNES, France (VN) — The mild-mannered Chris Froome says he’s not the boss of the peloton.
The Tour de France has a long history of the “patron.” From Bernard Hinault to Lance Armstrong, the Tour inevitably sees a strong rider emerge as the force of the bunch.
Speaking to NBC before the start of Thursday’s stage, the Team Sky star laughed off suggestions that he’s next in that line of succession.
“No, not really,” Froome said when asked if he was the “patron.”
“I’ve won the race four times, I wouldn’t say that I’m a patron in the sense. I wouldn’t say” there is a patron.
For a variety of reasons, there is much more equality in today’s peloton than in the days of Hinault and Eddy Merckx. In earlier eras, the sport revolved around a few big names who divvied up much of the calendar among themselves. Today, more riders and more teams compete at a higher level across the entire calendar.
“That’s more to how racing was 20 or 30 years ago,” Froome continued. “That’s maybe how it was. As a race leader, you’re going to have more say on current issues in the peloton. Riders are going to come up to you with concerns, so naturally you’re in that position. I wouldn’t say in this day and age that role exists like it did in the past … Everyone is happy to get on with what we need to do.”
Long gone are the days when a rider like Hinault or Armstrong would rule the peloton with an iron fist. Riders who stepped out of line either via race etiquette or who broke the unspoken rules of the peloton typically saw quick retribution.
Froome is known to be fiercely competitive during the race, but he is not going to be a rider who “punishes” someone for a perceived indiscretion like a Hinault or Armstrong might have done.
Today’s bunch is much more egalitarian and no single rider dominates the peloton’s internal politics like in other eras.
Froome, however, has been known to make his presence known in certain situations. There have been a handful of scenarios where the peloton has slowed down to wait for Froome when it might not have done so for other riders.
And Froome was among the riders raising concerns about the Giro d’Italia’s finishing circuit in Rome on narrow, cobblestone streets that many in the bunch felt was unsafe. The course was eventually raced at parade speed before the final few laps.
“When there are issues like there was at the Giro d’Italia and I was in the leader’s jersey there, riders came to speak to me there and we could resolve the issue, especially what was happening in Rome and the safety of the parcours,” Froome said. “I am happy to do that when I am in that position, it’s not a role that I will always be in.”
Froome also said the racing at the Tour de France seems to be “calming down a little” after almost a full week.
Froome lost time in an opening-day crash, but he has since settled into a steady rhythm despite losing a few seconds at the end of Thursday’s finale at Mur de Bretagne.
“That’s the nature of the race,” Froome said. “Everyone comes into the Tour de France knowing during the first week there is a high possibility of having a crash, of having a mechanical, because everyone is on the limit and everyone’s nerves are fraught. Everyone’s trying to be in those front positions.
“You just come into the race accepting there is a high chance that something can go wrong, and if something does happen, you just hope you can deal with it as best as you can. You hope you can get on your bike and keep racing.”