In the three years since Froome last won the Tour, the 35-year-old has endured a horrific crash and long recovery process, and had to watch as a host of young talents have emerged while he’s been sat on the sidelines. And now, his ongoing success is being questioned within his own team.
“There is no doubt that he has put a lot of work into it – and as always Chris has been a fantastic athlete and incredibly dedicated,” said Team Ineos technical director Carsten Jeppesen. “I do not believe that there are any who have trained as hard during this corona crisis as he has … but I’m not 100 percent sure that he will get so ready that he is where he needs to be to be able to win.”
When Froome bettered Rigoberto Urán and Romain Bardet to take his fourth tour title in 2017, the likes of Egan Bernal and Tadej Pogačar were still learning the ropes in lower-tier teams, their names largely unknown. Meanwhile, Geraint Thomas and Primož Roglič were yet to show their full grand tour potential. The cycling world looks a little different now.
“A lot has happened since Froome won last,” Jeppesen told TV2 Monday. “We have won the Tour with both Geraint and Egan, and Froome has grown older and has been subjected to a very, very serious crash last year.”
While Froome is as ambitious as ever, claiming he’s fighting fit and targeting a fifth yellow jersey in 2020, question marks arise whether he will actually be selected for the Tour now that he has confirmed his future transfer to Israel Start-Up Nation. And then there’s the whole conundrum over how Froome, Bernal and Thomas could possibly combine if they race together this summer.
The Danish tech wizard is confident that professionalism will override personal ambition if Froome does line up in Nice August 29.
“Now we have known Chris and worked with him for many years, and if there is one thing you can say about him, it is that he is a professional at your fingertips,” he said.
“With this ‘being decided out on the road,’ it may sound a bit like a phrase, but by and large, it’s the way it is – that the best man wins. And I really think they all have so much respect for each other that it becomes no problem.”