Sky’s Vuelta revelation Chris Froome talks hippo and race marshal encounters (separate stories) and the wonderment a plug-in computer hard drive can elicit.
Back in Kenya, I wasn’t really into racing. I just enjoyed riding my bike: on weekends I’d go down to the Great Rift Valley with friends on mountain bikes.
I used to ride to school on occasion, 20km away. If I wanted to go anywhere, the bicycle was my mode of transport.
Growing up in Africa has its colourful times. I was fishing one day, and a hippo came out of the river and chased me up an embankment. To me, it’s just a funny story; to most people in Europe, it’s something so foreign. There are places in Africa I’ve been riding my bike and you come across animals.
I crashed into a marshal at my first race in Europe. It was the 2006 U23 World Time Trial Championships in Salzburg. I remember in the route recon, we didn’t look at the first 100 metres off the start ramp. It looked different with the road all cordoned off, and I ended up hitting him. I saw him a couple of days later, his chest and ribs were black with bruises. He wasn’t too impressed. That was a good arrival to European racing.
Literally I came to Salzburg with no team or staff. I was going to the riders’ and managers’ meetings by myself, with my time trial bike with a map in the rain, having everyone looking at me strangely.
I still battle with the cold in Europe. When I used to live in the north of Italy, I’d come over in mid-January and that was something to get used to, having to go out in two, three layers of clothing all over my body.
I moved to Monaco in March, it’s almost like Switzerland in that everything works and no-one pays any tax. I used to be in Tuscany. I learned to speak Italian and really settled in there, but I needed to sort out a proper European base. For a bike rider, it’s perfect, there’s routes coming out your ears and all these other guys to train with.
Racing with Barloworld was a great introduction to professional racing, but it was a lot more basic. They got us to the races, we did the races and we went home again, but there wasn’t too much interaction in-between. At Sky, it feels like you have the support of the team, both at the race and training at home.
The best present I’ve ever received was a [computer] storage device. My brother got me one where I could keep all my music and movie files; I couldn’t believe that this thing existed. It must have been a few years ago: I look at it now, and think ‘’why was I so excited’, but back then, those things were pretty rare.