Froome ‘still wants’ fifth Tour, but Sky have yellow jersey dilemma
“He wants to win a fifth Tour, no doubt. He’ll be back, it’s a part of him and I think he can do it,” Brailsford said.
Froome, a four-time winner, was hoping to join Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain on an elite list of five-time winners on Sunday.
Victory on the Champs Elysees would also have seen the Kenyan-born Briton claim a seventh Grand Tour title and become the first cyclist since deceased Italian Marco Pantani, in 1998, to win the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same calendar year.
Yet Froome’s efforts in winning the Giro d’Italia last May, and his implication in a long-running anti-doping probe, appeared to become key factors as the normally unshakable 33-year-old’s bid went from bad to worse.
Froome was only cleared to race by the International Cycling Union (UCI) days before the Tour, but nearly 10 months after an “adverse analytical finding” for salbutamol during his Tour of Spain victory in 2017, the fallout created plenty of controversies.
“The answer we’d been waiting on for six months finally came five days before the start of the Tour de France,” lamented race director Christian Prudhomme.
“And it definitely impacted the general atmosphere.”
Froome’s Grand Tour success has invited detractors and fans alike from a sport known for scandal and disgrace. And when Sky was booed on the podium at the teams’ presentation, it set the tone for the rest of a race in which the British outfit was targeted by the haters.
Froome crashed twice in the opening nine stages, losing precious time to Thomas that, when it came to deciding Sky’s leadership strategy ahead of key stages in the Pyrenees, would prove decisive.
After Thomas took possession of the yellow jersey with a mountaintop victory at La Rosiere on stage 11, the Welshman secured a stunning win atop Alpe d’Huez the next day.
From then on, Froome was virtually racing to make sure he would feature on the final podium on the Champs Elysees.
Brailsford praised Froome’s readiness to become a ‘domestique’ for Thomas, a sign of “a great champion”. But he also admitted Froome had come to win.
“He won the Giro, which was quite something,” said Brailsford.
“But he came here to win, not to podium.”
“The mark of a great champion is that he fully accepted becoming a team helper once he realized he wasn’t going to win the Tour,” he added.
Post-Tour, however, Sky could have a dilemma. Froome still has another two years on his contract while Thomas has yet to re-sign with the British outfit.
Adding spice is the fact Sky already boast a potential future Tour champion in 21-year-old Egan Bernal, the Colombian sensation who was hugely impressive on his race debut.
“Naturally I’ve had a few emotions throughout this race,” said Froome.
“Moments of disappointment, crashing, moments of joy, when we’ve won stages or taken the yellow jersey.
“That’s bike racing. Like any Grand Tour, this has been a rollercoaster.”
But asked how he expects Team Sky to choose a team leader for next year’s race, Froome replied, “That’s a question for team management really. It’s not for a rider to make those decisions.”