Richard Moore considers why Chris Froome would choose to miss the Tour in favour of other races in 2015

The first instinct on reading Chris Froome’s reaction to next year’s Tour de France route, which appears to favour pure climbers over all-rounders, might be to assume that Froome has gone rogue, and that his threat to skip the Tour and go for the Giro and Vuelta will prove to be idle.

Froome offered his thoughts within minutes of the official unveiling of the route: “There’s no two ways about it, next year’s Tour is going to be about the mountains,” he said. “There’s very little emphasis on time trialling which means the race will be decided up in the high mountains.”

In contrast, he added, the Giro is “a well balanced race.” And given the time between that and the Vuelta, next year “could be a good opportunity for me to focus seriously on two [Grand Tours].”

Froome was absent from the presentation in Paris, spending the day in the company of the British sailing team. Instead of being suited and booted in Paris, he had squeezed himself into a lifejacket and could be found bobbing up and down on the English Channel. All very mysterious.

Apparently, though, Froome really is giving serious consideration to tackling the Giro and the Vuelta in 2015, which would mean missing the Tour. His sponsors, Sky, may have the final say, and given that they have no other potential Tour winners on their books, it doesn’t seem very likely at all that they will go to Utrecht without Froome.

But there is good reason to believe that Froome is genuine when he says he’d be prepared to miss the Tour, and that he isn’t indulging in a bit of brinksmanship in protest over a route he doesn’t particular like (which would be pointless anyway: they’re not going to change it).

Froome, remember, did not grow up dreaming of winning the Tour de France. He is not steeped in the traditions and lore of the sport. Indeed, he is notoriously sketchy on cycling history. He only saw the Tour for the first time on television in 2004.

Cycling fans will struggle to understand why a rider capable of winning the Tour would volunteer to miss it. But Froome has won the Tour, and what did it bring him? Fame certainly, fortune no doubt, but also a daily grilling about doping that he didn’t particularly enjoy, and which detracted from his success. Without the same spotlight or media presence at the Giro and Vuelta, there isn’t the equivalent level of stress in leading these races. Perhaps that appeals to Froome.

With Froome the decision could be pragmatic rather than romantic, or logical rather than emotional. If Froome accepts that Nairo Quintana is the favourite for next year’s Tour, given the route selected by ASO, does he try and calculate what is worth more: a win in Italy or a podium finish in France? Does he want to repeat an old trick or try a new challenge? Is he compelled to ride the Tour because it is the Tour? (No: surely if a race organiser is entitled to design whatever course they like, riders are entitled to choose one they prefer.)

Other questions arise from Froome’s threat, which have less to do with him and more to do with how the sport is structured and the calendar organised. The issue was recently brought into sharp focus, if rather crudely, by Oleg Tinkov and his million-Euro offer to the big four – Froome, Alberto Contador, Quintana and Vincenzo Nibali – if they ride all three Grand Tours.

Tinkov is probably speaking for most cycling fans when he says he wants to see these riders go head-to-head more often. But they all have the same decision to make as Froome. If you can’t win them all – and almost certainly nobody can – then there is a choice and a question: first and foremost, which route suits me best?; but also, what is ‘worth’ more, in sporting as well as financial terms?

Nibali and Contador have a better idea of the answer, having done the Giro-Vuelta double in a season, and also won the Tour. Perhaps Froome wants to find out for himself.

More from the Tour de France 2015

  • Giles Cudmore

    I am not a Froome fan, mainly down to the nationality question, but him missing the tour might be a boost for Team Sky in that they will be able to set up a team without a single focus. As proved in 2014 when that focus hits bad luck you can be a bit of a laughing stock.

    I would build a team around Peter Kennaugh, he won the Tour of Austria, which although shorter that the TdF of course has a lot of tough climbing, and being a bit of a lesser star he will be able to race rather than have to worry about all the associated press.

    Stick in Konig as back up, Nordhoug and Thomas and you are starting to build a strong, and balanced, team. That would still leave Porte, Roche, Eisel for the Giro/Vuelta squad.

    Bit of a shame for Ben Swift as he is due a grand tour stage win and the Giro would be a great chance for him, bit would be go if Team Sky were going for the title?

  • Trefor Jones

    Although Froome has a right to express his views he should remember first and foremost who pays his salary. Not Brailsford but James Murdoch – a keen cyclist – and a very influential Director & former Chairman of BSkyB plus COO of 21st Century Fox – who made it perfectly clear at this years Tour of California that the two most important races to win as far as he is concerned are the TdF and yes the ToC. Regardless of what we fans might think without Sky, British Cycling as a whole would not be where it is today without that sponsorship. Based on this years TdF team selection plus no real plan B and with his latest pronouncements Brailsford appears to have totally surrender his decision making to Froome and as a result lost the real respect of Wiggins who should have gone to Orica Green Edge. Remember Wiggo’s father Gary was in his prime a world class Australian track cyclist. Perhaps what is more telling is Brailsford’s total silence so can we expect his departure from Sky in the near future??

  • VG

    Perhaps it’s time for Richie Porte to try his luck as team leader in Tour de France.
    After all Team Sky is starting to fade as a super team.

  • elan

    Team Sky just want 21 stages of time trials,or if the race does not suit me just give it a miss.I have a great respect for Froome so I hope he does enter,but Wiggo against the big boys forget it.

  • Family Man

    He can’t beat Alberto or Quintana in the mountains, I think he’s scared. Alberto got in his head in the Vuelta. I hope we get to see Wiggo take another crack at the Tour, Wiggo you’re a legend, if Horner can win the Vuelta at 41 you can podium for sure!

  • Andy

    not sure anything is that clear cut. I think retiring from the road after TDF in which you held yellow for a week sounds quite good. He would potentially have form to get yellow in Utrecht if he gets hour record in late June.

  • Samuel G

    Wiggins won’t ride the tour he is retiring from road racing in June to focus purely on the track

  • Andy

    or could it be that Sky (or Brad himself) would really like to ride the Tour one more time. And it is a great opportunity for him to wear yellow for another week, and Froome has it in his contract they will not be in the same team together. Let Brad (+Henao/Thomas?) lead at Tour, “I’ll do the other grand tours and everyone is a winner?”