Chris Froome will join Israel Start Up Nation for the 2021 season and aims to end his career with the UCI WorldTour Team as his hugely successful 11-year spell with Team Ineos comes to an end with his contract expiring at the end of the year.
The news puts an end to months of rumours over the four-time Tour de France champion’s future, but he aims to ride this year’s race with Team Ineos rather than making a mid-season switch. One question that confirmation of his departure prompts, however, is whether he will now make his current team’s line-up for the race.
“Chris’s current contract comes to an end in December and we have taken the decision now not to renew it,” said team principal Sir Dave Brailsford in a statement released by Team Ineos at 10am BST today.
“We are making this announcement earlier than would usually be the case to put an end to recent speculation and allow the Team to focus on the season ahead,” he added.
In the statement, Froome said: “I look forward to exciting new challenges as I move into the next phase of my career but in the meantime my focus is on winning a fifth Tour de France with Team Ineos.”
Precisely one hour after the Team Ineos statement, Israel Start Up Nation confirmed that it had signed him as team leader for 2021 onwards, the announcement causing its website to crash.
Team Sky, and since its change of ownership and sponsorship last year, Team Ineos, has dominated the Tour de France over the past decade.
Since Sir Bradley Wiggins became the first British winner of the race in 2012, six more victories have followed, four of them through Froome, followed by Geraint Thomas in 2018 and Egan Bernal last year.
The Colombian has made no secret of his desire to retain his title and with Thomas also a near-certainty in the line-up, confirmation of Froome’s departure, coupled with his ambition to win the race for a record-equalling fifth time, creates the risk of disrupting the team’s unity should he be in the squad.
There had been speculation in recent months that he might move from Team Ineos before the Tour de France, with the postponed start date of 29 August coming after the two-week window from 1 August within which riders are permitted to switch teams during the year.
That is conditional, however, on all parties being in agreement, and the language used in both the Team Ineos and the Israel Start Up Nation announcements today, suggests that no mid-season move will happen.
With his current contract expiring at the end of the year, Team Ineos would have long accepted that its riders would be likely to face Froome as an opponent at the 2022 Tour de France.
There is no incentive though for the team to let him go before the end of the season, however, given that in top form he would represent one of the leading threats to their own ambitions for the overall victory.
So, as much as Israel Start Up might have wished to recruit him before the delayed Tour de France, that looks to be off the table – and, we wouldn’t be too surprised if in this strangest of seasons that is being squeezed into three short months or so, Froome ends up riding the Giro d’Italia or Vuelta instead.
Froome’s only race since his horrific crash at the Criterium du Dauphiné last year came in February at the UAE Tour, cut short after cases of coronavirus were diagnosed among riders and staff at the event.
He turned 35 in May, and if he won this year’s Tour de France would be the second-oldest winner in the race’s 107 editions and the oldest in 98 years.
Only Belgian rider, Firmin Lambot, who was 36 years 180 days when he took his second overall victory in 1922, has won the race at an older age than Froome is now.
He joined Team Sky from Barloworld when it was set up in late 2009, as did Geraint Thomas.
His Grand Tour breakthrough came at the 2011 Vuelta where he finished second to Juan Jose Cobo, and he would eventually be awarded the overall victory last year when the Spaniard was stripped of his title for doping.
Finishing second to team-mate Bradley Wiggins at the 2012 Tour de France, Froome won the 100th edition 12 months later and, after crashing out 12 months later, claimed three further victories between 2015 and 2017.
He followed that last Tour de France victory up by winning the Vuelta that same season, and in May 2018 won the Giro d’Italia to join Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault as the only riders to have held all three Grand Tour titles simultaneously.
I’m really excited to be joining the ISN family. I look forward to challenging and being challenged by their talent and continuing to strive for the success that I’ve enjoyed up to now. ISN’s impact on the sport is rapidly expanding, and I’m energised to be along for the ride. I feel we can achieve great things together.
Sir Dave Brailsford, team principal at Team Ineos
Chris has been with us from the start. He is a great champion and we have shared many memorable moments over the years but I do believe this is the right decision for the Team and for Chris.
Given his achievements in the sport, Chris is understandably keen to have sole team leadership in the next chapter of his career – which is not something we are able to guarantee him at this point. A move away from Team Ineos can give him that certainty.
At the same time, it will also give other members of our team the leadership opportunities they too have earned and are rightly seeking.
I am excited about the talent we have right across the team at the current time and all our collective focus is on preparing for the season ahead. Like everyone across the sport we are all looking forward to the start of racing next month.
Sylvan Adams, co-owner of Israel Start Up Nation
This is an historic moment for ISN, Israel, Israeli sports, our many fans all around the world and, of course, for me personally – a moment of enormous pride.
Chris is the best rider of his generation and will lead our Tour de France and Grand Tour squad. We hope to make history together as Chris pursues further Tour de France and Grand Tour victories, achievements that would make a serious case for Chris to be considered the greatest cyclist of all time.
We are committed to building a supportive Grand Tour team around Chris, such that we can make history together, as we compete to be the best, and achieve our principal goal: winning the Tour de France.
I am proud of the road we have travelled, which includes hosting the historic 2018 Giro d’Italia Grande Partenza in Israel, nurturing young Israeli talents, and inspiring a new generation of riders in Israel to take up the sport.
With Chris, we will move to new heights at the very top of the sport. I wish to add that I admire Chris not only for his success as a cyclist, but also for how he conducts himself, as a true gentleman, off the bike. Chris will be a great role model for our team.
Kjell Carlstrom, team manager of Israel Start Up Nation
We have been looking to strengthen the team for 2021 in several ways, not least of which is to become Grand Tour contenders.
With his impressive palmarès, Chris Froome is the perfect leader to mark our arrival as a serious contender for these races, particularly the Tour de France.
Chris’ career has been extraordinary, and we believe that he has both the mindset and physical talents to win more Grand Tours with us, while also acting as a mentor to our young talents, helping them succeed.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.