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Fractures over leadership trigger Froome’s departure

Grand tour star to leave Team Ineos for Israel Start-Up Nation at close of season.

Chris Froome — a four-time winner of the Tour de France — will leave Team Ineos at the end of the season, the cycling team announced Thursday.

“Chris’s current contract comes to an end in December and we have taken the decision now not to renew it,” said team boss Dave Brailsford.

The blockbuster news comes after weeks of speculation about Froome’s future. The 35-year-old was off contract at the end of 2020, and despite being an anchor at Team Ineos since its founding as Team Sky in 2010, there was apparent disagreement behind the scenes about not only Froome’s future, but also his leadership on cycling’s richest team.

Shortly after Team Ineos confirmed Froome’s departure, Israel Start-Up Nation announced they had signed the four-time Tour winner, saying that he will race with the team through the rest of his career, starting next season. “We can achieve great things together,” Froome said in a statement from his future team.

The confirmation of Froome’s move to the Israeli team confirms weeks of rumors that wealthy team co-owner Sylvan Adams was hunting the Ineos rider’s signature as part of his wider bid to take the team to the top of the WorldTour.

With Team Ineos packing cycling’s biggest budget, the UK team is loaded with GC talent, and it was obvious things were getting crowded at the top. Ineos also boasts 2018 Tour winner Geraint Thomas on contract through 2021, and defending champion Egan Bernal through 2023, and Brailsford hinted that squabbles over leadership were at the center of the break.

“Chris has been with us from the start. He is a great champion and we have shared many memorable moments over the years but I do believe this is the right decision for the team and for Chris,” Brailsford said. “Given his achievements in the sport, Chris is understandably keen to have sole team leadership in the next chapter of his career, which is not something we are able to guarantee him at this point.”

For months now, rumors have swirled that Froome was growing increasingly frustrated with his role on the team. Brailsford, who has been heavily recruiting young talent over the past few seasons, confirmed that the team’s future did not include Froome at the center of its plans.

“A move away from Team Ineos can give him that certainty,” Brailsford said. “At the same time, it will also give other members of our team the leadership opportunities they too have earned and are rightly seeking. I am excited about the talent we have right across the team at the current time and all our collective focus is on preparing for the season ahead. Like everyone across the sport we are all looking forward to the start of racing next month.”

The rare mid-season announcement that Froome would be leaving at the end of the season comes following weeks of media speculation about Froome’s future, and it appears Brailsford decided to disclose the news now in order to defuse possible distractions ahead of the Tour, set to run August 29 to September 20.

“We are making this announcement earlier than would usually be, the case [being] to put an end to recent speculation and allow the team to focus on the season ahead,” Brailsford said.

The confirmation means that Froome, who emerged as the best grand tour rider over the past decade with seven grand tours on his palmarès, will race out the season out in Ineos colors, with a likely start at the Tour de France in late August when he will try to join the Tour’s elusive “five-win” club.

While speculation has swirled in recent months regarding a potential mid-season transfer that would allow Froome to race for another team as the outright GC leader, Froome dispelled such a scenario.

“It has been a phenomenal decade with the team, we have achieved so much together and I will always treasure the memories,” Froome said Thursday. “I look forward to exciting new challenges as I move into the next phase of my career, but in the meantime, my focus is on winning a fifth Tour de France with Team Ineos.”