Chris Froome has been cycling’s nowhere man so far in 2021.
Despite repeated assurances from Israel Start-Up Nation staffers and Froome himself that things are on track for a run at a record-tying fifth yellow jersey, many are growing incredulous.
Following a flat performance at last week’s Volta a Catalunya, where Froome finished a distant 81st, we ask the question: will Froome be a factor in the 2021 Tour de France? VeloNews‘ Jim Cotton and Andrew Hood debate the issue.
Jim: No chance will Froome be in form for Tour
Sorry Chris, but there’s no way you’re in for jersey number five this year.
Although Froome regularly says that he can feel his legs strengthening with every race, there have been no signs of grand tour-winning form this year.
Also read: Losing hope on a Froome comeback
Froome being popped out the back in the echelons of the UAE Tour opener was no surprise given it was his first race of the season. However, being dropped most times the road went uphill through the Volta a Catalunya should set alarm bells ringing at ISN. On top of that, the 35-year-old’s time trial – a discipline that has long been one of the key missiles in his armory – was way off last week in Spain, leaving him over one minute slower than many of his Tour rivals.
By contrast, look at what his two main roadblocks to the Tour title, Pogačar and Roglič, have done this year. Pog looks better than ever with two GC wins already, while Rog looked invincible at Paris-Nice until one disaster day again proved his undoing.
Also read: Setting the tone for a yellow jersey repeat
Froome now returns to altitude before racing the Tour of the Alps and then the Critérium du Dauphiné. From there, all roads lead directly to a tough Grand Départ in the hills of Brittany. That’s just 13 days of racing.
Although Froome insists his power data is nearly back to its best, if he can’t handle the accelerations and attacks of a WorldTour peloton, he’s going to be watching the bunch breeze away from him plenty more times this season. By the looks of it, Froome needs much more than 13 days of competition to be at a level to match Pogačar and Roglič.
While a fifth Tour this summer would make for an incredible good-news story for us all, there’s no chance Froome will be tasting the champagne in Paris four months from now.
Hoody: There’s still a chance
At first glance, it appears time is catching up on Froome. Encouraging signs are few, at least when it comes to racing. Froome was out-gassed in his season debut at UAE Tour, and dropped daily at the Volta a Catalunya. Froome now retreats to another altitude camp before the Tour of the Alps in late April.
Logic says Froome won’t be able to match the explosiveness of the likes of Roglič and Pogačar in July. Everyone knows there’s no such thing as miracles in cycling. Froome is slowly inching closer, but so far, the goalpost remains out of reach.
Also read: ‘I am feeling better and better’
It’s hard to say where Froome is. Up to now, he lets off the gas when the accelerations come. Is that because he cannot follow the wheel, or does he not want to go too deep and pay a price?
Froome is looking more like a racer than at any point since his crash in 2019. He’s leaner, and his muscle mass is more toned. Coaches say his power numbers are back to WorldTour-level during training.
Does he need to show something before the Tour? Not necessarily. Froome and his coaches are on a slow boil for July, and there are still 90 days to hit his boiling point.
This year’s Tour route favors Froome’s diesel-style of racing, and if he’s within scent of the famed yellow tunic, no one is more tenacious with his bite than Froome Dog.
The Critérium du Dauphiné will prove telling. If he’s consistently getting dropped in mid-June, then it’s safe to say there’s no yellow jersey in the forecast for 2021. If he shows signs of life, don’t count out Froome just yet.