Every rider who has won four yellow jerseys has won a fifth Tour de France.
Could Chris Froome be the first to get stuck at four?
It’s an interesting question as Froome watches to miss the Tour de France for the second year in a row.
Froome’s last victory in the Tour de France dates back to 2017. The following year, he took the risk of targeting the Giro d’Italia, which he won in an exciting way in a long-distance attack in the last week against Colle delle Finestre. This Giro-Tour effort seemed to cost him dearly, however, and he had to settle for third place in Paris last July behind teammate Geraint Thomas and runner-up Tom Dumoulin.
Froome was still the big favorite at the head of the 2019 Tour before crashing during a warm-up before a time trial at the Critérium du Dauphiné in June of that year. The accident left his body shattered to pieces. Still determined, Froome returned from career-threatening injuries to return to racing.
Either way, Froome has made a remarkable comeback, but will he ever win another Tour?
What is certain is that he will not win the Tour this year.
Last week Dave Brailsford dropped the bomb to quit Froome from the Tour de France Ineos team. Instead of running to join the “five-victory club”, Froome will face the Vuelta a España.
Always pragmatic, Froome also admitted last week that he was not yet physically up to the task of winning the Tour this summer. It was a remarkable admission, but no surprise, from one of the peloton’s most determined riders.
Froome must therefore now look to 2021.
His move to Israel Start-Up Nation is filled with question marks, but with possibilities.
If Froome did indeed want to win a fifth yellow jersey, his chances would have been greatly reduced if he had decided to stay with the Ineos team beyond this season. Insiders say it was the money, the length of a contract and the question of leadership that ultimately drove Froome to Ineos’ door.
A driver like Froome is not going to evolve into a super-domestic, especially when he is convinced that he can win more great laps. With Egan Bernal and a host of other young talent to come, there just wasn’t enough room inside the Ineos bus for Froome and his touring dreams.
Froome is therefore joining Israel Start-Up Nation in a multi-year agreement that will put it back on familiar ground as the center of the team’s GC ambitions.
Those who think Froome could be washed might be surprised.
To sign his contract, the trainers and coaches of Israel Start-Up Nation had full access to Froome’s power numbers. Although Froome was not asked to take a full test to join the team, he did share his training and race data. The staff of the Israeli team left convinced that Froome is fully recovered from his accident at the Dauphiné based on the power figures he produces.
It was obvious at the Dauphiné 2020 that Froome was not yet at the end of the field, but insiders say his poor performance there was more due to a lack of racing than his ability to pump watts.
Froome’s new team have already started recruiting heavy hitters to help them in 2021, including Daryl Impey and Michael Woods. It’s likely that the team will sign a few more marquee assistants in order to give Froome the support he needs for a legitimate Tour assault next year.
Winning the Tour is more than a physical question, it is also a deep psychological battle. Froome has shown time and time again that he is perhaps the most determined and determined rider in the peloton. If he has the physical means to challenge the Tour, his mental strength will not be lacking.
In fact, Sylvan Adams, owner of the Start-Up Nation of Israel, doesn’t stop with a fifth tour. Adams believes Froome still has the legs to match Eddy Merckx’s all-time record 11 titles.
It might be an even bigger stretch, but Froome already has seven grand laps on his track record, by far the biggest of any active rider. With four laps, a Giro and two Vuelta titles, Froome is four behind Merckx.
Before they match any records, however, what Froome needs more than anything is to put a big spin on his legs. His chances of winning the Tour in 2021 could well depend on whether the Vuelta a España is contested this fall. Froome hasn’t completed a grand tour since the 2018 Tour, so if the Vuelta is somehow canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic or if Froome can’t race due to an accident or of illness, he would enter the 2021 season without having completed a grand tour in nearly three years.
And time is also working against Froome. He will be 36 at the start of the 2021 Tour, and if he won, that would make him the oldest Tour de France winner of the modern era. Cadel Evans was 34 when he won the 2011 Tour. Of course, there is still inspiration from Chris Horner, who became the oldest grand tour winner in history when he won the 2013 Vuelta. at 41 years old.
There is no doubt that Froome has several challenges ahead of him. First, he needs to get his body back in shape to face Bernal, then build a team around him that can support him against rivals like Ineos and Jumbo-Visma.
Everyone close to Froome will tell you if anyone can do it, they can. His determination, ability to suffer and focus are unmatched in the peloton.
The five-winning club members are some of cycling’s most revered stage riders. Jacques Anquetil, Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain – they all have their hiccups and challenges, but ultimately when they won their fourth the fifth came.
There is a rider who won a sixth and a seventh yellow jersey, but these are no longer counted on the official results sheet.
If things don’t go perfectly for Froome, however, he could end up in a club on his own.
Of course, with four yellow jerseys required for entry, almost any professional cyclist in the peloton would be happy to be in this exclusive company.