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Chris Froome lived and raced on the front-line evolution of how training technology could transform professional racing.
The four-time Tour de France winner used, among other things, power meters and a host of other cutting-edge coaching and training techniques to dominate grand tour racing for nearly a decade.
Now 36, Froome isn’t ripping the legs off anyone, anymore. Since his horrific crash in June 2019, the Israel Start-Up Nation rider has not returned to his former best.
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Yet Froome continues to work on the vanguard of new technology. So much so, he is an investor and advisor to a growing number of firms, including Factor Bikes, Supersapiens glucose-monitoring devices, and Hammerhead navigation systems.
Speaking in a YouTube video by Wiggle, Froome shared his views on how technology reshaped and transformed professional racing, and what he sees as the “next big thing.”
His comments provide an interesting perspective on how a growing array of training and racing tools continue to transform professional racing. Here are some key excerpts:
Froome: New pros today are ‘straight to the top’
Froome said he sees a through-line from power meters to the rise of today’s über-talented young riders, like Egan Bernal and Tadej Pogačar, both of whom won the Tour in their early 20s.
“Youngsters coming into the sport have a structure that didn’t exist beforehand,” Froome told Wiggle. “That’s really led to the new generation of riders who are turning pro at 19, 20, 21, and they’re straight to the top. Pogačar, Bernal, already winning the Tour at 21, 22. If you had told me five years ago that a 21-year-old would be winning the Tour de France, I would be ‘no way, it’s just not possible without that depth of racing and experience.’
“Power meters have been around for long enough that a lot of the highest-level racers have shared data and made that available,” he said. “There is so much more data available and coaches can guide athletes better. When I started in my late teens, we didn’t know what we were doing. It was a little bit of guesswork in terms of training, intervals, power thresholds.”
Also read: Power-based training – where to begin
Froome’s comment underscores the growing trend of younger riders skipping the U23 ranks altogether, and jumping straight from the junior category to the WorldTour. Riders like Quinn Simmons (Trek-Segafredo) and Remco Evenepoel (Deceuninck-Quick-Step) joined the WorldTour as teenagers.
Is it all due to power meters? Not entirely, but they’re an important tool that helps younger riders train like pros at an even earlier stage of their careers. Shared power data also allows team managers, coaches, and sport directors to have real insight into a prospective rider’s motor and capacity to identify top talent at an even younger age.
When riders of Froome’s generation were coming up, the more established route was to race as an amateur or semi-pro in the U23 ranks before perhaps earning a spot on a second-tier team before hitting the WorldTour-level in the mid-20s.
Today, riders are fast-tracked into the WorldTour, and in some cases, have an immediate impact on the highest levels of international racing.
Froome insists the wider adaption of powermeters in all aspects of racing and training is a key factor behind the youth movement reshaping the WorldTour order.
“We are seeing this young talent coming through because they’ve already been training five, six years from their early teens in a really structured way,” he said. “And they’re turning pro and being able to beat the best in the world, so it’s been quite amazing to witness that.”
Froome on racing with data: ‘I am aware of numbers’
During his heyday, Froome was often accused of racing off the data provided via his power meter. Some critics say Froome and other top cyclists relied too much on power data, eschewed old-school verve and gut instincts, and turned top-level racing into something robotic.
Froome admitted he uses his power numbers, but insisted they’re only relevant in longer, sustained climbs or in time trials. He added that during the heat of a race, the situation is too fluid to be able to race solely off the data provided in power numbers.
“In the race, I am aware of the numbers. I do glance at the power figures and my heart rate, but that would not really be a game-changer during the race,” he said during the interview. “It’s a race, it’s very dynamic, you cannot stick to your power zones, unless it’s a time trial or on a long uphill finish that’s 10 miles long.”
Froome said even more decisive in terms of “real-time” data during a race is the ever-more-precise information that’s now at the fingertips of riders and sport directors. Enhanced mapping tools, such as VeloViewer, as well as bike-mounted GPS devices provide key data points during the movement of a race.
“Something I use more than data during racing is the maps page,” Froome said. “You can see the severity of the bends, so to have that information, you can really trust yourself on the corners, and you can descend a lot faster.”
He also said interactive data on gradients and elevation also provides key insight for riders and directors out on the road.
Next game-changer? Glucose monitors
If power meters helped revolutionize elite cycling over the past few decades, what’s next? Froome said it’s the use of glucose-measuring devices.
Long-used among diabetics and others with chronic blood conditions, Froome believes a new wave of devices and tracking software that can be applied to elite cycling and other endurance athletic endeavors will be the next major advancement in performance.
Froome — who joined the company Supersapiens as a technical advisor and investor last month — said the glucose sensors are already taking training and performance to a new level.
“I really do believe Supersapiens will be a game-changer,” Froome said during the interview. “To be able to measure in ‘real time’ your blood sugar levels as an athlete. The technology has existed for a while.”
In what’s a booming and highly competitive space, these newly adapted, sport-specific glucose devices are quickly being adopted by several top endurance athletes and pro teams. Blood-sugar levels are key to any endurance performance and provide precise information that helps in fueling as well as preventing race-busting moments like bonks.
The UCI, however, took a dim view of the devices and banned them during competition as part of its updated race rules released this summer.
“It’s such a huge field, at the moment maybe it’s like power meters were 15-20 years ago,” Froome told Wiggle. “There are people using glycemic monitors during sport, but there’s not necessarily a lot of knowledge, and the structure is not really in place in the highest level of the sport.
“That’s just going to grow and grow and grow in the next few years,” he said. “We are going to see that more important at top-level sport.”
Froome, meanwhile, vows to keep racing.
In previous interviews, he insisted he’s not thinking of retirement, and confirmed he has a contract with Israel Start-Up Nation through the end of 2025.
“It was a pretty horrendous crash,” Froome said of his 2019 crash. “I’ve made it back, but I haven’t made it back to my previous level yet. I will keep working.”
Froome has not finished in the top-20 in any race since his crash in 2019. In fact, his best result since his comeback was 22nd in stage 4 at the 2021 UAE Tour.