Chris Froome has said that the course of this year’s Giro d’Italia is “perfect” for his team mate Geraint Thomas – with the four-time Tour de France champion adding that he aims to “leave a legacy” to cycling by winning the French Grand Tour for a record-equalling fifth time, as well as the road race at the Olympic Games in Tokyo next year.
Back in 2012, Froome finished runner-up to his team-mate Sir Bradley Wiggins, who became the first Briton to win the yellow jersey. Froome himself won it four times in the following five years, and Team Sky’s dominance continued last year as Geraint Thomas triumphed.
Should both Froome and Thomas both ride the race this year, then Team Sky – whose sponsorship of the UCI WorldTour outfit finishes at the end of 2019 – will for the first time have two riders who have both won it.
Coming to last year’s Tour de France, Froome had won the previous three Grand Tours – the 2017 Tour de France, the Vuelta, and Giro d’Italia – but retaining the yellow jersey was beyond him, losing time to a crash on the opening day and Thomas taking control of the race with back to back wins in the Alps.
Thomas has yet to confirm whether or not he will target the Giro d’Italia, a race he crashed out of in 2017, but if he does, that could well be the principal focus of his season rather than the Tour de France, with no rider having won both races since the late Marco Pantani in 1998.
Speaking to the Corriere della Sera about his ambitions for this year’s Tour de France, Froome, now aged 34, said: “I’ve won it four times, I’m the right age to leave a legacy. Winning the fifth would be the best way to close the circle.”
Asked whether his decision not to aim for a second Giro d’Italia was due to his experience at the Tour de France last year, where he finished third overall, he said: “At a certain age you need to change your programme and conserve your energy.
“For the first time I’ve decided to do a block of training (as well as a stage race) in Colombia and then will contest the UAE Tour, the Tour of Catalonia, Tour de Yorkshire and the Dauphiné. Few races, but quality ones.”
Froome’s ride last year on Stage 19 of the Giro d’Italia, where he launched a solo attack on the Colle delle Finestre with 80 kilometres remaining to snatch the overall lead from Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates, has already gone down in cycling folklore, and the Team Sky rider agreed it was a career-defining moment.
“A challenge first of all, a huge emotion afterwards,” he said. “I had just one chance of recouping the deficit built up in the opening two weeks, and I played it out over three hours. All or nothing.
“Determination, an incredible team and a lot of luck all played their part; if someone had helped [Team Sunweb’s Tom] Dumoulin, I wouldn’t have won. It will remain the greatest undertaking of my career.”
He said he would miss the Giro “enormously” this year, describing the race as “20 great Classics in a row. It’s unpredictable, difficult to control, full of traps, with a brutal final week. I wouldn’t leave cycling without racing it again.”
For now it appears that the 22-year-old Colombian Egon Bernal will lead Team Sky at the Giro, and it is a race that Froome believes he could win at his first attempt.
But he also believes that this year’s parcours particularly suits Thomas, whom he says has “a bitter taste in his mouth after the incident that cost him the maglia rosa two years ago,” when he crashed due to one of the race’s motorcycle outriders parking up on the wrong side of the road.
Froome laughed when it was put to him that having a Thomas who a was tired after riding the Giro might benefit him at the Tour, saying: “At Sky we always ride for the team. Last year, Geaint’s victory at the Tour made me very happy.”
Froome also revealed that there he has his sights set on victory in a specific one-day race – the road race at next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games, which he said “seems really tough.”
He added: “I’ll have to change my programme, but it will be worth it.”
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.