Yet when Froome talks to Cyclismenews during an exclusive end-of-season interview, we can easily feel his determination to return to the level which has earned him the Tour de France four times between 2013 and 2017, the Vuelta a España in 2011 and 2017, and the Giro d ‘ Italy in 2018.
Froome still appears courteous and in control – a well-educated boarding boy who seems too kind to be a Grand Tour winner – but his personal ambition shines through. This brought him from Africa to Europe in search of a professional contract in 2007, it prompted him to fight Bradley Wiggins for leader status in Team Sky, and it then helped him to tackle doping suspicions after excessive levels of Salbutamol were found in his samples from the 2017 Vuelta.
Froome needed all this resilience during his convalescence and rehabilitation after the fall of the Critérium du Dauphiné 2019. He nurtured him to set himself the personal goal of winning a fifth Tour de France, which in turn l ‘drove through the pain barrier into the gym after operations to insert and then remove the pieces of metal that held her fractured femur together.
Froome endured a difficult moment of realism when he was forced to accept that he would not be competitive in this year’s Tour de France, but he insists that “the fundamentals of my physiology have failed. not changed ”and still clings to this dream of a fifth record. yellow jersey.
“There is no guarantee that I can win another Tour, a fifth Tour, after what happened and what I experienced. I know it, but it remains my goal. This is what drives me to give 100%, ”he said. Cycling news, respond without flinching to all the skeptics.
“If it’s in 2022, the year after, or the year after, that’s what I’m going to keep working towards until it becomes clear that it’s not possible. . This is what keeps me on my bike every day. As long as I see progress in my work then I will believe it is still achievable and I will continue to work for it.
“The suffering gave more perspective on my career and my life. It made me so grateful for the position I am in. I had a second chance to be a professional runner. I know not many people have it so I’m more grateful than ever and it gave me the motivation to go back to my old level. “
Froome’s mantra may seem far-fetched given his results so far, but he’s sincere. The paper entries say little about a runner’s life, their physical and mental challenges, or the evolution of races as part of a larger team strategy.
He struggled with differences in leg strength during the first half of the season, with his right leg refusing to return to previous levels despite a winter spent working at the Red Bull Athlete Performance Center in California. He then fell sharply during stage 1 of the Tour de France but still struggled to reach Paris.
He overcame some digestion issues this summer and was unable to compete in the Vuelta a España, but then raced until mid-October. He wasn’t just dialing the numbers for the final races; he was working to be able to start winter in the spotlight and continue to pursue his dreams in 2022.
“I was seriously injured in this accident two years ago, but it was in June that I felt the injuries were behind me. I see this moment as the zero point on my path to recovery and return to my full self. I used to be in negative territory because my right leg just wasn’t where it needed to be, ”he explains.
“I still work out in the gym and do rehab, but now my focus is on the cycling side and rebuilding my running condition. Seeing things that no one else sees in my progress really motivated me. I saw my right leg getting stronger and stronger and I saw my numbers getting closer and closer to where they should be and almost balanced. “
Not many people noticed, but Froome made the selection in the Milano-Turin one-day race in early October when Deceuninck-QuickStep attacked into the crosswind. He then worked to help Michael Woods on the climbs to Superga before coming out so he could end his season after Il Lombardia and Coppa Agostoni with a smile on his face.
“The second half of the season was a lot more fun because I focused on getting back to where I was before the crash,” he said. “I see more and more the gains. I still have some way to go but I was once again ahead.
Suffering during the Tour de France
Froome’s return to the Tour de France was much less pleasant but was fundamental for his recovery and perhaps for his future ambitions.
He was not selected by Ineos Grenadiers for the 2020 Tour de France, but his move to Israel Start-Up Nation assured him of being on the starting line in Brest in June. Although not competitive for the overall standings, Froome was optimistic as he had passed the “zero point” of his recovery.
However, his plans fled from the start of the race, hitting the bridge in the massive crash of the first stage.
“I felt like I was going in the right direction, then the fall of the 1st stage of the Tour took six hits”, he explains, evoking the pain and the emotion.
“Getting back to the Tour had been such an important goal for me. I had been thinking about getting back to the start line of the Tour since the accident in 2019, it was something that pushed me to continue. Going back was a great accomplishment. Then suddenly falling on stage 1 was hard to bear. “
Nevertheless, Froome fought, suffering from Mont Ventoux – a scene of ancient glories – to make sure he reached Paris.
“I would probably have retired in other races, or in other Tours, with injuries of this magnitude. The accident left me with a lot of pain. I was completely bruised on my left hip and buttocks for weeks after the accident, and my ribs were still sore when I arrived in Paris and rolled on the cobblestones of the Champs Elysees.
“I stayed on the Tour and suffered to get to Paris. But I wanted to have the pace of the Tour in my legs, so I went deep. Getting to Paris was an important personal victory. “
Push and work for 2022
Froome is aware of social media reviews and those who have written him off. He even challenged them and took a stand, a sign of his maturity and his leadership position within the peloton.
He is ten years older than the new generation of Tour de France contenders and is aware that professional cycling has changed dramatically since its fall in June 2019.
He expresses his admiration for the way Tadej Pogačar, winner of the last two Tours, handles all the pressure and expectations but also defends his own generation, refuting the idea that they are ready for the job of cyclist rendering.
Some of the older riders like Alejandro Valverde, Riche Porte and Geraint Thomas are still performing, all winners in 2021, which “gives me hope,” says Froome.
“It’s not that the new level of young people is 20% higher than everyone else. The older guys are still there or there. It makes sense to me that if I can go back to my old level then I can run with these guys. “
Froome will be spending time at his home in the south of France with his young family rather than taking an exotic vacation this winter. He’ll attend an Israel Start-Up Nation meeting in Israel in November, then go on charity hikes for Best Buddies, but he’s already thinking about next season.
He refuted reports that he would earn € 5million per season, removing any financial pressure to be a Tour de France contender. Everything changed when he left the well-managed and massively funded comfort of Ineos Grenadiers, meaning he had to adapt and learn to work with a new set of coaches, sponsors, directors and managers. teammates.
“I have certainly dealt with a lot of things this year, there was a lot of stuff on my plate,” he says.
“Team change was a factor because I changed everyone around me, my equipment, the way I work, my coach and even the way I train. But as a team we have gone up a level. Very recently, we had Tom Van Asbroeck and Guillaume Boivin finish in the top 10 at Paris-Roubaix, Alessandro De Marchi wore the pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia and Dan Martin won a great mountain stage. [Michael Woods] was also affected by the first accidents of the Tour de France, but fought and wore the polka dot jersey.
“Everyone is working hard and we are closing the gap with the bigger teams, while also helping some of the young drivers to come through the team academy. All of this gives me additional motivation. “
As for Froome himself, that ambition still burns and keeps those dreams alive.
“I ran into October knowing that racking up 68 days of racing and one last block away from home would be better for me in 2022,” he says.
“I’m going to keep pushing and keep working to make more improvements, hoping for more progress. I’m always happy to start all over again in 2022. “