What does the four-time Tour de France winner make of Pogačar and how do you go about beating him? “Ha, not easily,” he said, talking to VeloNews at the start of stage 8 in Dole. “He’s shown incredible class. Not only in being up there in the mountains, but time-trials as well and the more punchy stages. You can’t fault the guy.
“At 23 years old, he’s ridden with incredible maturity. Bar injury, crashing or severe technical problems, I don’t see anyone taking it away from him.
“Having said that, the likes of Jonas Vingegaard won’t give him anything for free. It’ll be a fight all the way.”
Moving on up
Chris Froome’s 41st place finish on the stage 7 finish of La Super Planche des Belles Filles might pale in comparison to the greatest hits on his palmarès, but it was an unmistakable move in the right direction for the Israel-Premier Tech racer.
Finishing 3:48 down on stage winner Pogačar, it is his highest finish at the Tour de France in the 29 stages he has done since his career-transforming crash at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné. Froome finished the race 133rd last year.
“I’m not here riding GC with the likes of Pogačar and everyone else,” he told VeloNews at the start of stage 8 in Dole. “But it still felt good to get into the mountains. I can definitely see a huge improvement on where I’ve been previously in the last three years.”
When the dust settles
It could potentially have been better too, as Froome was carrying some ill effects from the Tour’s first week.
“I’ve been struggling a little bit with my chest the last few days, coughing up dust ever since the cobbles,” he says. “That’s starting to ease now.”
Looking lean and tanned as he talked in the French sunshine, the Alps beckon for the 37-year-old. Over the next two weeks, Froome intends to “look for opportunities in terms of breakaways, and when one arises, go for it 100 percent.”
Israel-Premier Tech’s relegation fight
Meanwhile, his team Israel-Premier Tech are involved in a battle for a WorldTour place, given the UCI’s promotion-relegation system that comes into effect at the end of 2022. Simon Clarke’s stage 5 win at Arenberg-Porte du Hainaut gave valuable points.
However, a Tour stage win still carries fewer points (120) than a win in one of the year’s numerous Class 1 races, such as Challenge Majorca at the season’s start.
What’s his view of the points weighting? “It is what it is: as a team, we’re always going to fight for wins, whether that system existed or not. So it doesn’t really change anything for us. But we’ll see how we get along,” he says.
Meanwhile, Froome expects to be with Israel-Premier Tech next year, having signed a long-term contract with Israel-Premier Tech. “I haven’t thought that far,” he said, when asked for his plans. “I’m committed to the team.”