Cycling Weekly is counting down the top 30 British Riders of the Year thoughout December.
NUMBER 1: CHRIS FROOME
Tour de France champion
Chris Froome may have won the Tour de France, becoming the second British rider to do so and the second consecutive British champion, but that tells only part of the story of his season.
Last winter, pundits who suggested that Froome would win the Tour, improve on his runner-up position and defeat a resurgent Alberto Contador and the rest, were dismissed as crackpots who’d got used to seeing the world through red, white and blue-tinted spectacles.
But the way he attacked the spring races, notably the Tour of Oman, Tirreno-Adriatico and Critérium International, suggested that he was ready to follow in the wheeltracks of his team-mate Bradley Wiggins, who had plotted his route to the Tour de France the year before by winning just about every stage race on the way.
Froome barely put a foot wrong – only a miscalculation on a long, tough, miserable day at Tirreno-Adriatico denied him overall victory there. His aggressive racing style and ability to accelerate away from his rivals was demonstrated time and again, but there was never a sense of cockiness or a feeling that he was showing too much of his hand.
And so, by the time he won the Dauphiné in June, Froome was one of the favourites for the Tour.
The contrast between Froome and Wiggins was demonstrated throughout July. Froome – sometimes vulnerable when the racing is sketchy and technical – survived Corsica and steadily got into his stride.
By the time the race reached the Pyrenees, he was ready to attack, and the manner in which Froome and his team-mate Richie Porte demolished and demoralised the field at Ax 3 Domaines was as impressive as the Sky team’s collapse the following day was inexplicable.
Although he didn’t win the time trial at Mont St Michel – Tony Martin did – he strengthened his grip on the yellow jersey and then removed any doubt by conquering Mont Ventoux. His victory was the polar opposite of Wiggins’s.
Wiggins had been serene on the bike, sitting at the back of the line of Sky riders who controlled the race, but he was volatile off it, losing his temper with the incessant questions about doping.
In contrast, Froome was aggressive on the bike – he even wanted to attack at Semnoz on the penultimate day of the Tour, but he was unable to match Nairo Quintana – and he bore the brunt of the questions about doping with patience and grace.
Off the bike, Froome is a quiet man, seemingly untroubled by a rampaging ego. And yet his understated public persona masks a determination to succeed.
Froome’s Tour victory combined panache with a growing tactical ability. His humility – particularly when he organised for his Sky team to drop back so they could cross the line on the Champs-Elysées and celebrate the moment together – perhaps says more about him than a hundred media interviews would do.
British Riders of the Year 2013: Related links