British cycling star Froome is a four-time Tour de France winner, and is the only Brit to have ever won more than one yellow jersey.
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Froome is chasing a record equalling fifth overall victory, which would put him equal with cycling icons like Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault, but despite his years of dominance in the French Grand Tour, Froome will not be riding the Tour de France for the second year in a row.
Last year the 35-year-old missed the race for obvious reasons – he’d suffered awful injuries in a crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné just a few weeks before the Tour, which left him sidelined for the rest of the season.
Froome is back to racing in 2020 and has been competing in some of the biggest warm-up races this year, but Sir Dave Brailsford and British WorldTour squad Team Ineos (now known as Ineos Grenadiers) have decided not to take Froome to the Tour.
Earlier this month, Brailsford announced that both Froome and 2018 Tour winner Geraint Thomas would not be riding in France but would instead lead the team in the Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia respectively.
Froome has been in action in Italy at Tirreno-Adriatico, where Ineos Grenadiers finished second overall with Geraint Thomas and took stage victory on the final day time trial with Filippo Ganna.
However, Froome was still far from his best at Tirreno. His best stage result was 63rd and he finished 91st overall, suggesting he still has some way to go before returning to his Grand Tour favourite status.
But what were the reasons for leaving Froome of out the Tour de France 2020?
Froome’s return from injury
A lot has happened in the last two seasons which explain why Froome isn’t lining up in Nice – the first is his career-threatening injury suffered at the Dauphine last June.
Froome crashed at high speed during a recon of the stage four time trial and was left in a critical condition with multiple injuries, including a badly broken femur.
The next few months were all about rehabilitation for Froome, who didn’t race again in 2019 but rejoined the peloton at the UAE Tour in February this year.
Froome struggled to keep up in the Middle East and it looked like he may struggle to get back up to full strength in time for the 2020 Tour de France, which was initially scheduled to start in late June.
But as the UAE Tour was called off due to a coronavirus outbreak, the UCI soon suspended all racing in response to the global pandemic and the Tour de France was eventually pushed back to late August, giving Froome more time to recover.
As racing restarted in July, Froome was able to rejoin his Ineos team-mates in the smaller French stages races – La Route d’Occitanie and the Tour de l’Ain – where he put in some impressive performances in support of Egan Bernal but clearly wasn’t at his best.
Then at the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné, it was the last opportunity for both Froome and Thomas to show their form and earn their spot in the Tour team, but their fitness still wasn’t there.
Froome’s best result was 49th on the Col de Porte on stage two and Egan Bernal was left to fight for the race lead on his own against a daunting Jumbo-Visma squad.
Announcing the Tour de France squad, Brailsford said: “Chris is a legend of our sport, a true champion who has demonstrated incredible grit and determination to come back from his crash last year. We want to support him to compete for another Grand Tour title and the Vuelta gives him that little bit more time to continue his progress to the top level.”
Froome himself said: “I think given where I’ve come from through the last year, I’ve had an incredible recovery from the big crash I had last year and I’m in a very fortunate position to back racing now already.
“I’m not confident I can really fulfil the necessary job that would be needed of me at this year’s Tour de France.”
Froome has since expanded on the team’s reasoning.
During the Tour de France he told Eurosport: “I think I could have played a role but the team decided that was not going to be the best thing for them and for myself personally.”
He added: “I can only really speak for myself, but I would have been happy to have gone to the Tour and helped, but I think it made a lot more sense for me not to be under that amount of pressure right with where I’m at trying to get back to my old level.
“Between myself and [Geraint Thomas] we’ve got a lot of experience, having raced the Tour for years now.
“We’ve won it five times between the two of us, so I would think we could have contributed in that sense, helping the team.”
Transfer to Israel Start-Up Nation
In the background of his recovery, Froome was also involved in some major behind-the-scenes negotiations as he considered leaving Team Ineos after a decade of success.
Froome announced in July that he would indeed be leaving his current squad to join new WorldTour team Israel Start-Up Nation in 2021 to become their outright Grand Tour leader.
The move opened up speculation about whether Team Ineos could trust Froome to ride for the squad at the Tour de France, or whether he might try to capitalise for his own success.
Whether or not Froome would have remained loyal to the team, the transfer news confirmed that he was no longer the future of Team Ineos who are instead backing Egan Bernal for repeat success.
But with Israel Start-Up Nation making some big signings to support their new superstar leader, Froome should be back in the Tour de France peloton in 2021 – but can he win that elusive fifth yellow jersey?