Colombian fans welcome Froome to season opener
Chris Froome bounces his way up a steep dirt road in the Colombian countryside. He muscles his Pinarello Bolide time trial bike over rocks and gravel, while the mountains of Colombia provide a stunning backdrop.
Cycling fans went wild when these videos on Froome’s Instagram account were beamed to his 910,000 followers last week. Froome on the gravel with his time trial bike — the video generated plenty of online chatter.
Those images came from an actual training ride that Froome completed during his build-up for this week’s Colombia 2.1 stage race, which kicked off Tuesday in Medellin. On his way up this road, which was much rougher than anticipated, Froome was surprised to hear a man calling out to him from a farm in the hills. Those images were captured in a recent Sky video, called “Inside Line,” which chronicled the team’s pre-race training in Colombia.
“One of the farmers turned around, looked at me, and just started waving, ‘Froome, Froome, Froome!’” Froome said. “Just literally in the middle of nowhere on this little goat track and a farmer recognized me and put two and two together that I was there, it hit home that cycling here in Colombia is just massive.”
RT @DeportesYMasCol: ¡GENIAL! vídeo de Chris Froome entrenando en Colombia por auténticos caminos de herradura; alistandose para el Tour Colombia; tremendo ciclista…un monstruo. pic.twitter.com/5Gd8X40pwK
— Luis Navarro (@lnavarrom22) February 7, 2019
Froome’s international star power has reached well into South America. And despite the local partisans’ deep support for Colombian riders such as Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Urán, they are just as happy to see their riders’ British nemesis.
His Colombian teammate Egan Bernal, winner of Colombia Oro y Paz last year, the precursor to Colombia 2.1, was unsure how his countrymen would react when Froome arrived at their country’s biggest cycling race.
“I thought when he came, I don’t know how the people would be with him because he’s the competition of Nairo [Quintana],” said Bernal. “It’s like Nairo versus Froomey always here in Colombia.”
Froome also had some reservations, given that on three occasions, he’s won the Tour de France right ahead of a Colombian star.
“I was a little bit apprehensive coming here. I could understand if they see me as the bad guy, the guy who’s going up against local heroes like Rigoberto Urán, Nairo Quintana,” Froome said.
“I could almost understand if there’s a little bit of resentment toward me or something like that but there’s not a shred of it, not a shred. They’ve been so, so welcoming.”
In fact, Team Sky boss David Brailsford said the race organizers and Colombian federation president asked him to bring Froome for the 2019 race.
“They love him, they absolutely love him here,” Brailsford said. “There’s an enthusiasm, there’s a passion, there’s a contagious kind of enthusiasm about it all.”
The locals might even love Froome a bit too much. Sometimes European pro cyclists can blend in while visiting a country outside their sport’s traditional heartlands. Not in Colombia. Froome says he’s been mobbed by fans wherever he goes.
“Everywhere we go in Colombia there are just people,” he said. “It’s almost hard to walk around and be normal, just being stopped every 10 meters for a photo or an autograph, it’s quite overwhelming actually.”