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Hayman: Froome move ‘can change balance’ of Tour

Team Ineos may stay at top, but expect different dynamics from newly confident teams, says Mitchelton-Scott director.

Chris Froome‘s high-profile move to Israel Start-Up Nation will change the dynamic of grand tour racing in ways fans might not expect.

That’s according to Mathew Hayman, a former Froome teammate and sport director at rival Mitchelton-Scott, who described the blockbuster transfer as one that could “change the balance” and usher in a new era of stage racing.

While the Australian believes that Froome’s current Ineos team is likely to remain top dogs in the GC scrap, the shuffling in the pack of grand tour stars could bring about a shift in wider race dynamics.

“I think Ineos will still be dominant in grand tours – they’ve won the last two Tours without Chris and I don’t see that changing much,” Hayman told VeloNews on Thursday. “But it can change the balance and the tactics at races, how you divvy up a team and look at who’s dedicated to GC or whose going for breakaways.

“We have to see where Chris is with his recovery, and there’s a lot of racing to be done before he moves [in 2021], but this year will for sure give a good indication for how things could play out next season.”

Hayman, who raced with Froome at Team Sky from 2010 to 2013 before transferring to Orica-GreenEdge, is now in his second season behind the wheel of the Mitchelton-Scott team car. He feels that the Team Ineos’ dominance won’t just fall flat despite Froome’s exit given the presence of grand tour winners Egan Bernal, Geraint Thomas, and Richard Carapaz in the squad. However, the addition of Israel Start-Up Nation to the list of teams nipping away at Team Ineos’ heels – namely Mitchelton-Scott, Jumbo-Visma, and Bahrain-McLaren – could alter tactics and team selections and shift power balances as teams grow in confidence in their own abilities.

“Chris is an easy-going, fun guy, but deadly serious, and has a focus and a drive which can also change the rest of a team as well,” Hayman said in a telephone interview. “When you have somebody like that on your team it can motivate everybody else to step up and be ready at the highest level. Not that Israel Start-Up Nation riders weren’t motivated before, but someone like that can inspire a different mindset.

“Riders like Chris have the ability to do that. The stories that I’ve heard of his dedication and application to training and his focus is pretty second to none, unwavering.”

Froome’s tenacity and devotion to training and recovery have been widely praised as second-to-none by team managers and teammates. Although Hayman left Team Sky just as Froome was taking the first steps toward his grand tour throne, the Australian was witness to the team’s emerging Tour de France dominance from the perspective of a rival rider and team staffer.

Hayman rode with Froome and Team Sky from 2010-2013. Photo: Graham Watson.

“I know that riders given a position to defend the yellow jersey in the Tour de France are able to do incredible things,” Hayman said. “And once you get into the position that you have the lead, it’s a lot easier to defend the further you get into the race. Israel Start-Up Nation has a strong enough roster anyway, but generally, it’s easier to defend [a lead] when you’ve got the best rider in the race than it is to try and win with a strong team when you don’t have the best rider.”

Rumors had been churning for months in advance of the news that Froome would be waving goodbye to Ineos at the close of the season. For Hayman, Froome’s bloody-minded pursuit of a record-equalling fifth yellow jersey, whether with or without his longtime British team, made his move an inevitability given the recent rise and defiant stance over leadership of his teammate Bernal.

“Chris has been in that position before, having to deal with that [team politics] within his team and I guess that takes some energy out of you, as well as dealing with trying to win the hardest bike race in the world,” Hayman said. “It makes sense that maybe he might have opted for an environment where he can just focus on just trying to do one thing and not also have to deal with anything inside the team.”

Hayman dismissed the notion of a sense of loyalty or camaraderie coming into play when Froome decided to part ways with Dave Brailsford, the manager who has masterminded his seven grand tour wins.

“They’re not going to be sentimental over that. They’re driven people who have a goal of winning the Tour de France and I think that both of them would have kept that in mind when they were negotiating.

“Chris knows what he wants and is big enough and confident enough to state what he wants. As we’ve seen, when he wants something, he makes it happen.”