Flying pigs, Ineos tactics and unwavering belief: Chris Froome reflects on 2021 Tour de France

The four-time winner will make it to Paris despite his stage one crash

Chris Froome
(Image credit: Getty)

Chris Froome will roll into Paris to complete the Tour de France on Sunday in the ninth slowest time, more than four hours behind winner Tadej Pogačar.

It's a long, long way from the heights of winning the same race four times, but given that just over two years previously he was unable to walk after a career-threatening crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné, it's an enormous achievement that the Briton has even returned to the biggest bike race of them all.

He's endured a tough Tour: crashing on day one, spending the first Saturday night in hospital, battling through the ensuing three weeks and crossing the line in mountain stages alongside the sprinters, the domestiques and the wounded - the riders he is more accustomed to waving goodbye to at the start-line and not seeing them for another 24 hours. 

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Ever the gentleman, ever the optimist, Froome reflects on his ninth Tour. "Even though I've been at the back of the race, coming in the tail every day, it's been a massive test for me," the Israel Start-Up Nation rider tells a small group of journalists after stage 20's time trial.

"Just to be here, finishing this race, especially when so many people have pulled out...for me personally, it's been one of the hardest Tours because I'm at the back but I'm looking around the bunch at injured guys, the amount of guys pulling out of the race every day.

"It's been relentless. There's been no easy days in this Tour, and even the transfer days haven't been straight-forward."

Has he had thoughts about quitting, hanging his bike up? "Not really, no," he shoots back. "Even though I am suffering, and maybe it looks as if I'm not enjoying it, I love this, I love this sport in general.

"Even thought it's brutal at times, relentless at times, I genuinely do love riding my bike and racing at the highest level."

Immediately after the crash in June 2019 that slammed the brakes on his career as the Grand Tour star of his generation, he vowed that his goal remains unmoved: he wants to win a fifth Tour de France.

Two years on, even with almost everyone doubting such a thing is possible, he's sticking to it. "The goalposts don't change," he insists.

"I want to go back to my best, it's no secret. I will keep working as hard as I can get to get there... I am looking forward to the years ahead."

He has been impressed with his successor, Tadej Pogačar, who has now won two Tours before his 23rd birthday. Comparisons are being made between him and Eddy Merckx.

"He has got all the potential," Froome assesses. "He's 22-years-old, he's rolling into Paris with his second yellow, it's pretty special. He's potentially someone who could break all records but it's still early days. Let's see how things develop."

Froome's former team, Ineos Grenadiers, have failed to win a stage or the GC at the Tour for the first time since 2014, raising questions about their approach.

"They came with four leaders and that was whittled down pretty quickly," Froome reviews. "They had to change their game plan, and going up against a rider like Pogačar, you can't do much mano a mano, so their approach with multiple leaders is...

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"If they don't have someone stronger than Pogačar, the only way to beat him is with tactics, and for that you need multiple cards to play. They came in here with the right plan but unfortunately that plan got derailed early on."

The racing experience has been different for Froome, but at least this year the home crowd have been nice to him, applauding and cheering him, rather than booing or throwing urine across him like in the past.

"Pigs do fly!" he quips. "The crowd have been fantastic, the support has been amazing. I feel like I've had the fans behind me more so than when I was winning the Tour de France."