Call it what you want — a coincidence or an indicator — but each of cycling’s five-time winners of the Tour de France won one of their yellow jerseys in a year ending with a one.
Let’s explain: Jacques Anquetil, the first rider to win five Tours, won his second of five crowns in 1961. A decade later, Eddy Merckx won his third of five in 1971.
You can see where this is going; Bernard Hinault won his third in 1981, and a decade later, Miguel Indurain won the first of his five consecutive Tour crowns in 1991.
The streak continued for another decade, with Lance Armstrong winning his third Tour in 2001, only to see all of his Tour victories struck from the official record books.
In 2011, Cadel Evans won Australia’s first yellow jersey in what would be his lone Tour victory just as Team Sky was emerging as cycling’s new Tour powerhouse.
Of course, randomly selected statistics have nothing to do with determining the winner of cycling’s most prestigious grand tour.
What the statistics do reveal, however, is that every decade since the 1960s has seen the Tour dominated by a generational rider.
When it comes to Tour winners, at least since the 1960s, the “ones” have it.
Using that statistical inference, 2021 will be the best and perhaps last chance for Chris Froome to win what would be his fifth Tour title.
With seven career grand tour victories, Froome is already the best grand tour rider of his generation. Among active riders, only Vincenzo Nibali with four grand tour wins comes close.
Yet if Froome falls short, he could become the first rider to win four Tours de France who did not go on to win a fifth title.
What are his chances in 2021? Based on how his recovery went in 2020 from his horrific crash at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné, some say Froome still seems well short of Tour-winning form.
Froome struggled throughout his 2020 season and was dropped in every key stage of the 2020 Vuelta a España. Yet in trademark Froome style, he refused to give up, and by finishing the Vuelta earlier in November, Froome at least completed his first grand tour since his third overall in the 2018 Tour.
As Froome knows better than anyone, there is a huge gap between completing a grand tour and competing for overall victory.
Insiders are split on Froome’s prospects for 2021. Even if Froome can return to his best form next season, some say it’s unlikely he will be able to match the explosive power of riders such as Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma), Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers) or Tadej Pogačar (UAE-Emirates). Time is also catching up, and Froome will be 36 when he takes to the start line of the 2021 Tour.
Yet everyone also agrees there are few riders as determined as Froome, who will be doubly motivated with his high-profile move to Israel Start-Up Nation in 2021 to prove everyone is wrong.
If Froome is going to win a record-tying fifth Tour, his best chance could come in 2021 on a course that sees the most time trial kilometers since 2013.
That year, of course, marked the opening of the “Froome Era,” with the first of his four Tour crowns. Most top riders have about one decade at the top, and for Froome, that window is closing.
If the fifth comes in 2021 — another year ending in “one” — it will only serve to confirm him as the most dominant rider of his generation.
History is on his side. After all, the other Tour greats won one of theirs in the “ones.”