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Froome to manoeuvre

Two-prong attack an option for Team Sky

Richard Moore Posted 30th August 2011 view comments

When the Kenyan born and raised Chris Froome switched nationality, becoming a 'British' rider in 2008, he was spoken of as a rider with great potential, especially as a climber.

Few might have imagined that he would eventually lead a Grand Tour after a long, flat time trial. Yet, on Monday, at the Vuelta a España, that is precisely what he did.

And in doing so, Froome eclipsed his team leader and time trial specialist, Bradley Wiggins. No wonder the 26-year-old looked shell-shocked as he stood on the podium in the leader's red jersey, waving bemusedly at the crowds in Salamanca.

After a difficult first season, Chris Froome has taken a big step forward in 2011

After a difficult first season, Chris Froome has taken a big step forward in 2011

Froome's display over the first 10 days of the Vuelta has come as a surprise, but perhaps his time trial performance isn't as remarkable as it appears. In fact, he has a pretty decent record as a time trialist, finishing ninth in a similar stage at this year's Tour of Switzerland, and, back in 2008, 14th in the final time trial of his debut Tour de France.

Should Froome continue to sacrifice his chances for Wiggins, or should Team Sky now try a two-pronged attack?

Richard Moore
Quotes of the week

After a difficult first season with Team Sky in 2010, he appears to have taken a big step forward this season, partly by working to reduce his upper body movement. Previously, by his own admission, Froome was "literally all over my bike".

"One of the things I want to do is calm my upper body down and become more stable," he explained.

Smooth

Froome thus spent many hours doing core-strengthening Pilates. And the benefits are there for all to see. He looked smooth and efficient as he motored around the 47km time trial on his way to second, 59 seconds behind Tony Martin.

But even more striking than his time trial has been Froome's overall performance so far in Spain. After all, he has not exactly been hiding over the first 10 days of the race. Rather, he has been working his socks off for Wiggins, not least towards the end of Sunday's stage on the brutal final climb to La Covatilla, when he sat on the front and dynamited the lead group, yet still managed to finish fifth on the stage.

To recover from that effort and produce such a strong time trial is not just impressive, it is the stuff of Grand Tour contenders.

Which leaves the Team Sky management in an interesting quandary. Should Froome continue to sacrifice his chances for Wiggins, or should they now try a two-pronged attack?

Or, as unthinkable as it might seem, should Wiggins - who suffered a partial collapse over the second half of the time trial - become domestique to Froome?

Problem

This might fall into the category of 'not a bad problem to have' - so beloved of football managers who find themselves blessed with an abundance of strikers. It is nevertheless a problem. Keeping two leaders - or multiple strikers - happy can prove very difficult. Almost by definition, they cannot all be satisfied.

Yet, if anyone might be willing to graciously step aside, you imagine it could be Froome. He can come across as an unlikely professional sportsman. Frankly, he seems too nice. This is a man who last year spoke as passionately about his desire to establish a foundation for young cyclists in Kenya as he did about his career goals.

As he explained: "There's endless potential in Kenya, and the youngsters there, they've got the endurance, the right physique, so for me there's no reason why one of these guys can't be the next Alberto Contador, or whoever.

"But there are very few structures out there for these guys to be involved, so I'd like to establish a foundation to do that. It's going to be my little project on the side."

Understandably, he has other priorities at the moment than single-handedly finding a first African Tour de France winner.

In the meantime, he should be content, as a proud Kenyan, with becoming the first African-born cyclist ever to lead a Grand Tour.

Richard Moore is the author of Sky's the Limit: British Cycling's Quest to Conquer the Tour de France, and Slaying the Badger: LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France.

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