Category: Chris Froome

Analysis: The Vuelta is better without Thomas, Froome

Confirmation that Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas will skip the Vuelta a España means one thing — the Spanish grand tour just got a lot better.

The Vuelta is already the most entertaining grand tour to watch anyway. But without its two GC aces, Sky will not be riding to throttle the race into the ground. That means the Vuelta should be even more explosive than it would be anyway with its seemingly endless string of uphill finales, punchy finishes, and deep field.

With Sky sending its two top stars for a victory lap at the Tour of Britain instead of going to Spain, the Vuelta won’t see a fully loaded Sky train to mark and control every GC threat in the peloton. And that means it’s anyone’s race to win.

Whether that’s a good or a bad thing depends on your view of Team Sky. The team seems to have just as many distractors as supporters, and after a rough and tumble Tour de France, both Froome and Thomas will likely welcome a bit of a grand tour respite.

If you’re a believer in seeing the best riders in the best races no matter what jersey they wear, you won’t agree that the Vuelta is better off without Froome or Thomas. In fact, it could have been fascinating to see just how well Froome or Thomas could have ridden in this Vuelta.

But after the spite and anger that engulfed the Tour last month, the Vuelta will be better off with a bit of a Sky breather.

Sky fatigue has set in across much of the sport, from rivals desperate to try to beat them to skeptical fans who don’t believe them. Race organizers and even the UCI are scrambling to try to find a way to loosen the stranglehold Team Sky has on the Tour de France and the yellow jersey.

As much that’s made about Sky’s domination, its reach only statistically extends to the Tour. Its grip over the Giro, Vuelta, and other races is much looser — Sky has only won one edition of the Giro and Vuelta during its run of six yellow jerseys in the past seven Tours — and Sky has never succeeded in dominating the classics the way it does stage racing.

The Sky team that came to the Vuelta most years was never the same Sky at the Tour. Even with Froome in the Vuelta, he was never quite the race-killer he’s been of late in the Tour. It took Froome four cracks at the Vuelta before he finally won it last year.

It was inevitable that Froome would pull the plug on his grand tour run. The four-time Tour winner raced four grand tours in row — winning three on a trot and finishing third in last month’s Tour — so sitting out of the Vuelta is no surprise. And though Thomas might have been tempted to race the Vuelta, a victory lap around Britain certainly must sound a lot more appealing. And after two years of mostly negative headlines in the British media, there might be a bit of a PR push by Sky to bring Froome and Thomas closer to the British racing public.

Even without Froome and Thomas, “Sky light” will still be a factor, but it won’t be the race-crusher it was in July.

That’s not to say Sky might not win its fifth straight grand tour anyway. Michal Kwiatkowski and David de la Cruz — there is still no confirmation about Egan Bernal, but he is not expected to race — will carry the team colors.

Sky always brings a strong team to any race, but its demotion as the pre-race favorite will dramatically alter the tactical dynamics of the Vuelta. Without a clear favorite in the form of Froome or Thomas, Sky won’t be massing numbers at the front to dominate the race in the manner it does at the Tour.

That means the Vuelta should be dramatically less controlled and more dynamic.

Other teams will inevitably step into the Sky void and take control of the race. That weight will surely fall onto Movistar.

The Spanish team, however, will once again bring its three-pronged attack to the Vuelta and everyone saw how that worked out during the Tour. The Vuelta should be less complicated, especially with Alejandro Valverde eyeing the worlds and Mikel Landa looking hobbled following a nasty crash at the Clásica San Sebastian. Nairo Quintana will be the focus of Movistar, if not the entire race.

And even without Froome or Thomas, the Vuelta already has a stellar start list, combining the best of the Giro d’Italia and Tour plus some interesting up-and-comers.

The Vuelta has long become the redemption tour ever since it moved to its late-summer slot on the calendar in 1995. This year’s edition looks to be a who’s who of the banged up and embittered.

What is perhaps the Vuelta’s deepest start list in years includes Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Fabio Aru (UAE-Emirates), Rigoberto Urán and Michael Woods (EF Education First-Drapac), the Yates brothers (Mitchelton-Scott), Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb), Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), and the list goes on. Add the likely presence of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), and the Vuelta is the envy of the peloton this year.

Riders across the peloton use the season’s final grand tour to salvage something. Others come looking to prepare for the world championships. Anyone still without a contract is doubly motivated to show something. A few actually even put the Vuelta at the center of their season goals.

The final result is a fascinating, well-aged stew of fitness, ambition, motivation, and weariness against the bleating canvas that is late-summer Spain.

As a result, the Vuelta has emerged as the most engaging grand tour of the season for a variety of reasons. It consistently delivers the surprises and GC drama that the Tour could only dream of.

And without Froome or Thomas, the unpredictability factor just shot through the roof.

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Thomas and Froome to skip Vuelta for Tour of Britain

LONDON (AFP) — Tour de France champion Geraint Thomas and the man whose crown he took in July, his teammate Chris Froome, will compete in next month’s Tour of Britain rather than the season’s final grand tour.

Both Team Sky riders have rarely graced their home Tour in the past decade. Thomas finished seventh last year in what was his first appearance since 2011, while Froome last competed in 2009 and finished 50th with his previous team Barloworld.

Thomas, 32, was only drawn to compete in 2017 because the race ended in his home city of Cardiff. He was lured back this year for what will be his first major race since the Tour de France. The British tour begins September 2 at Pembrey Country Park in Carmarthenshire, Wales.

The Vuelta a Espana gets underway on August 25.

“As soon as I’d finished the Tour [de France] I knew I wanted to ride the Tour of Britain and race on home roads,” Thomas said on the Team Sky website. “It starts in Wales, which will be special, and then I get to go and race across the whole of the United Kingdom. I can’t wait.

“I want to go to the race in the shape to compete and enjoy it. We’ll have to see how the next few weeks go, but I’m looking forward to it and I know we will have a strong team there.”

The four-time Tour de France champion Froome, who finished third behind Thomas in this year’s Tour, said he focused on the Vuelta the past four years before finally winning it in 2017.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve raced the Tour of Britain,” said Froome. “The Vuelta a Espana has always been such a big goal and sadly coincided with the Tour of Britain, but not doing La Vuelta this year gives me the chance to come back to the UK and race on what looks like a great parcours.

“I’m really looking forward to riding. I always remember there being a great atmosphere at the Tour of Britain and the race has only got bigger over the years. I’m really looking forward to coming back,” added the 33-year-old Kenyan-born star.

Surprisingly given their dominance, especially at the Tour de France, Team Sky has only won the Tour of Britain once — when Bradley Wiggins prevailed in 2013.

Following the start in Wales, this year’s race will take riders into the West Country and up to Cumbria before returning to its regular finishing circuit in central London on September 9.

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Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome to ride in Tour of Britain

• Froome set to appear in race for first time since 2009
• Cardiff-born Thomas: ‘It starts in Wales which will be special’

The Tour de France winner Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome will line up for Team Sky in the Tour of Britain next month. In a coup for organisers, Froome will ride his first Tour of Britain since 2009, with the six-times Grand Tour winner making a rare appearance in a British race.

Thomas was once a regular in the Tour of Britain, but his appearance last year, when he finished seventh overall, was his first since 2011. The Welshman was drawn to last year’s Tour of Britain by its finish in his native Cardiff, and will again be on home soil when this year’s event begins in Pembrey Country Park near Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, on 2 September.

Related: Faster, higher, stronger? Not in Olympic women’s road cycling | Stephanie Constand

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Sky’s Bernal, Castroviejo discuss Tour de France drama

Two of Team Sky’s newest and most effective “gregarios” defended the team’s collective strength and questioned the tactics of their rivals.

Egan Bernal and Jonathan Castroviejo, speaking in different interviews over the weekend, offered new insight to what happened inside Team Sky during July’s Tour de France. Castroviejo said winner Geraint Thomas and co-team leader Chris Froome held “mutual respect” all the way to Paris, while Bernal said the team’s rivals waited too long to mount a counter-offensive.

“They are afraid to attack,” Bernal told Mundo Deportivo. “That’s the problem, not Team Sky. Everyone attacked in the final mountain stage of the Tour. I thought, ‘why did they wait so long?’ They should have done it earlier.”

Bernal, who spoke to the Spanish sports daily ahead of his crash Saturday at the Clásica San Sebastián, insisted that Sky’s racing style isn’t as predictable as it might seem.

“It’s not a question of speed or watts. Sensations count for a lot,” Bernal said. “They speak about taking away the power meters. I looked at mine occasionally out of curiosity. No one ever told me to go at this power or be careful not to go above this limit.

“You know yourself and you know your ‘cruising speed’ that you can hold for 20-30 minutes,” Bernal continued. “They told at Alpe d’Huez to climb and leave them at such and such kilometer. What would have happened if I could have only pulled for three instead of eight? The leaders would have been isolated. It could have happened because I was on my limit. [Our rivals] seem more concerned about our race than theirs. They are afraid to attack.

“What did Landa do on the final day? He attacked and put us on the limit,” Bernal said. “It’s true that we had time on him and we had the time trial coming up, but someone could have attacked who was at 10 or 20 seconds.”

Bernal, 21, left the Tour as the revelation of the race. Before his crash, he hinted he wanted to race the Vuelta a España. After crashing Saturday, Bernal underwent surgery for facial injuries and did not know what the rest of his season might look like.

Castroviejo, meanwhile, revealed that Thomas and Froome worked well together to handle what could have been an explosive situation.

“Yes, it was a surprise, but Thomas demonstrated he was a just winner. And for us, there was never an uncomfortable situation or ‘polemics,’” Castroviejo said. “Thomas was intractable and he raced a perfect Tour. And what Froome did the last day I admired a lot because he is noble and humble.

“It’s not easy for a team to share leadership and we were talking about first and second on GC. Even so, there was never any kind of problem,” he continued. “Each one gave in for the good of the team, and the winner was decided on the road. There was mutual respect and ‘good feeling.’ At the first part of the race it was more complicated, but as the race advanced, especially in the Alps and above all in the Pyrénées, the ambiance was much better. By the time we got to Paris, everything was normal.”

Team Sky’s domination of the Tour continues to haunt rivals and officials alike. After winning six of the past editions of the Tour, Sky looks firmly in control of its destiny after recruiting such riders as Bernal and Castroviejo.

Castroviejo joined Team Sky this year after racing six seasons with Movistar. The four-time Spanish time trial champion was tapped for his ability against the clock and his pulling power.

“It looks easy on TV, that nobody ever put us in difficulty, but the day to day is very different,” he said. “It’s very complicated. In the mountains we always have to stay as a solid group and you never know until the time trial. You can have a bad day and lose all the hard work in a bad moment.”

With Bernal waiting in the wings and Froome and Thomas likely returning to next year’s Tour as co-leaders, Sky’s rivals will be scratching their heads all winter on how to unravel the British outfit’s stranglehold on the yellow jersey.

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Hinault refuses to keep mouth shut over Froome case and changing sport

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Former French cycling great Bernard Hinault says he will not stop speaking out about the Chris Froome case or the changing sport.

The five-time Tour de France winner blasted Chris Froome over his asthma drug case stemming from the 2017 Vuelta a España. The UCI, however, dropped the case against Froome because he showed his levels fluctuated within a reasonable range.

“My mouth, I will never close it,” Hinault told Le Parisien. “When I have something to say, I say it.”

Hinault had called on the riders to strike against Froome racing the Tour de France. He said that Froome does not have a place in cycling. Froome replied later, “I imagine with age sometimes your wires get a little bit crossed.”

“Froome spoke recently about my age after all my statements about him,” continued Hinault this week.

“I may be an old fool but I see things. When you see parents at the start of a race, giving Ventoline [asthma drug Salbutamol] to children who are not asthmatic, it drives me crazy.”

Froome said before that he is a long-time asthma sufferer and has treated his symptoms for 10 years. At the Vuelta, he had tested over the limit for Salbutamol on stage 18.

Hinault raced through the 1970s and 1980s. He won three editions of the Giro d’Italia, twice the Vuelta a España, and five times the Tour.

“You will still say that I am an old fool, but I know the history of cycling,” he continued.

“I don’t know if the kids would listen to me more or not, but I can tell you that I would have a lot of things to say to some. I could give ideas to many. I would not talk about watts or power, but I would repeat this: ‘Learn your body.’

“There are some guys who are not very well-positioned on the bike. I see guys who calculate watts, but they make huge mistakes in the wind. Oh, guys, think!”

‘The Badger’ worked with Tour organizer ASO until retiring last year. At the 2018 Tour, won by Froome’s teammate Geraint Thomas, Hinault only attended three stages. He said he has trouble recognizing the sport.

“At least at the buses. There are riders who stay on the bus and leave at the last moment without speaking to the public. No more exchange [with fans], but it’s their life, not mine,” continued Hinault.

“Now, at the end of the races, it’s like football: corridors, buses, and tinted windows. They stay in their bubble.”

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Tour de France: French media call for salary cap to curb Team Sky dominance

• Winner Geraint Thomas’s team have twice budget of Sunweb
• Fans and public said to view Tour with ‘disillusioned anger’

Geraint Thomas has been hailed as “Le Prince de Galles” and “Le cyclist next door” by French papers after winning his first Tour de France. But as the 32-year-old arrived back in Britain following a heavy night of celebrations, there were growing calls for Team Sky’s dominance to be curbed.

Thomas admitted that his victory had “all come together like a dream” and said he had received calls from Arsène Wenger and Elton John, as well as a video message from Thierry Henry. An open-top bus parade is also planned in Wales, although Thomas’s next appointment will be a criterium in Belgium on Tuesday evening.

Related: Will Geraint Thomas’s Tour de France win spark thirst for more success?

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Why does Chris Froome look so bad on a bike?

Over the past several years, there’s been endless talk about Chris Froome’s riding style and position on the bike. Froome himself admits he looks terrible — elbows out, head down, heels dropped. Ghastly.

You’d think after all these years at the highest level of cycling, someone, somewhere, somehow, would find a solution to make him look better, and more importantly, ride more economically on the bike. Well, in fact, you’re looking at it.

One of the world’s leading fit specialists, a consultant to several WorldTour teams, and an innovator of products for Specialized, Dr. Andy Pruitt, says it’s all a function of how the bike fit resembles the rider. Though he has never personally examined Froome, Pruitt is privy to Froome’s Retul data. Retul is a technological partner of the British team.

“Off the bike, I suspect Chris’s ambulation, gait, and posture are as ugly as they are on the bike.” In so many words, Pruitt has confirmation of this fact from the physiotherapist that worked for Team Sky and Froome for several years, Dan Guillemette. Because Guillemette has since moved to the Mitchelton-Scott team, he chose not to comment for this story.

According to Pruitt, he and Guillemette share the same fit philosophy: They use Retul technology for a full physiological assessment, then adjust the bike to suit Froome as best as possible.

“All of his [body measurement] data falls within normative ranges for WorldTour riders,” Pruitt said. “It doesn’t mean he’s pretty, that just means he’s within normal ranges.”

Chris Froome set the pace for Geraint Thomas on stage 17. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

That said, Froome is constantly fiddling with his bike setup. Froome recently switched to an unmarked Specialized saddle — before the closing stages of the Giro after struggling with saddle sores.

According to Pruitt, his sacrum sits very upright on the saddle, so his pelvis is positioned almost as if he’s sitting up, and he gets much of his forward flexion from his mid-spine and thoracic spine. That creates a lot of pressure on his sit bones and leads to the widest separation of the sit bones as well.

Gary Blem, Froome’s mechanic on Team Sky, makes the many tweaks Froome asks for on a daily basis. According to Blem, Froome has made as many as 17 adjustments to his saddle position since the Tour began, mostly height, but also fore/aft. It sounds like a lot, but that’s better than last year when Blem said he made changes every single stage.

“He plays a lot with his saddle position — generally most days,” Blem said. “He’s playing with his position. And, yes, it has dropped. Some days he doesn’t feel great and the saddle drops and drops. We’ve actually managed to bring him up again. He has a really good position in general. Over the years it’s been coming down a little at a time. Now we’ve been able to get him to an optimum position. Okay, people say he’s sitting lower and we know that, but that is about comfort.”

Blem estimates the saddle height has dropped in the region of 1-1.4 centimeters in the past three years. He said it’s not that Froome has become less flexible, but rather it’s just a feeling the GC star gets.

“Chris comes down a half millimeter at a time,” Blem said. “I agree with what [Chris] says. Your body isn’t the same when you wake up. You’re a little taller in the morning than you are later in the day.”

So, how does this translate into Froome’s unattractive position on the bike? With his saddle far forward and relatively low, his knees tend to bow to the sides. It also leads to a short reach from the saddle to the handlebars. Froome’s long arms and spindly elbows, thus, jut to the sides.

“You can bring all the experts in and put him in the optimal position, but if he can’t hold that position then he simply can’t hold it,” Blem said. “It’s more important for the rider’s feeling to get them to the optimum position, and be comfortable, and not do anything too drastic.”

And why is he always looking down? Well, according to Froome, it’s not about fixating on his power meter but about breathing. Relaxing his neck, he says, allows air to flow easier.

“I’m not just staring at my power meter when my head goes down. My gaze is a little bit lower,” Froome told CyclingWeekly in 2015. “My neck gets tired. I’ve a very rounded upper back and I find my neck gets tired. I find it’s easier for me to breathe, I can get more oxygen when my head is lower down.”

Elbows-out and head-down, Froome is far from graceful. Nevertheless, there is no arguing how effective he has been on a bike in the past five years. That doesn’t surprise Pruitt. A rider’s position on the bike is just one component in a menu of items that makes someone a great cyclist, he said.

And Froome eats from a five-course menu.

Fred Dreier contributed to this report from the Tour de France.

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Team Sky’s riders who propelled Geraint Thomas to Tour de France win

A dedicated team effort helped propel the Welshman to the Tour title, with a mix of mountain grind, chasing tenacity as well as a potential glimpse of a future Grand Tour champion

Signed from Movistar, where he helped Nairo Quintana in the Tour de France in 2015 and 2017, and had already played an important role in Team Sky in helping Geraint Thomas win the Critérium du Dauphiné in June. If anything his efforts in the Tour were even more impressive: lending Froome his wheel when he had puncture on stage 10 and helping Thomas win up the Alpe d’Huez by providing much of the grunt work on the climb up. Also valuable in the Pyrenees – when Mikel Landa broke away up the Tournalet on stage 19 and came to being within 80 seconds on virtual classification, it was the Italian who did much of the work to chase him down.

Related: Tour de France victory has given Geraint Thomas desire for more big wins

Related: From Wales to the Champs-Élysées: the selfless rise of Geraint Thomas | William Fotheringham

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Tour de France victory has given Geraint Thomas desire for more big wins

• ‘It’s insane – I’ve certainly got the taste for it,’ says Welshman
• Next month’s Vuelta a España likely to be a step too far

Geraint Thomas says his first Tour de France victory has given him a “taste” for more grand tour successes – although he appears unlikely to tackle the Vuelta a España despite being pencilled in for next month’s race.

The 32-year-old could barely contain his excitement after crossing the line, draping the Welsh flag around his shoulders on the podium and calling it the best day of his life after his marriage to his wife Sara.

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Fans line Paris streets as Geraint Thomas wins Tour de France

The Welshman – the first to win the tour – crossed the finish line on the Champs Élysées alongside teammate Chris Froome

Thousands of fans lined the streets of Paris on Sunday to see Geraint Thomas become the first Welshman to take home cycling’s biggest prize, the Tour de France. Clad in the winner’s yellow jersey Thomas crossed the finish line smiling, arm in arm with his teammate Chris Froome.

Two weeks ago the French football team had ridden along this same route in an open-topped bus to share their World Cup win with jubilant fans. But on Sunday, the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde played backdrop to Team Sky’s victory parade. For the fourth year running the Tour de France was coming home to Britain.

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