‘You need a big leader to elevate a team, and Chris Froome is a beast,’ says Sean Yates

The former Team Sky sports director gives his analysis on the Froome transfer

(Image credit: Corbis via Getty Images)

There are few people in professional cycling with the knowledge and experience of Sean Yates, both on and off the bike.

Yates, Tour de France stage winner and a former Team Sky sports director, has offered up his analysis on Chris Froome’s impending transfer.

British Grand Tour star Froome is leaving Team Ineos, formerly Team Sky, after more than a decade to sign with a new WorldTour outfit, Israel Start-Up Nation.

Yates, who led Team Sky to their first Tour de France victory with Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2012, sees Froome’s departure as inevitable.

He said: “It's only a matter of time really when you consider all the circumstance and the question of leadership.

“When the couldn’t guarantee he would be the sole leader of the team, that in reality compromised his chances of winning the Tour.”

After weeks of rumours, Team Ineos announced on Thursday (July 9) that they would not be extending Froome’s contract beyond 2020.

Team boss Sir Dave Brailsford said the 35-year-old wanted to be the sole leader of the squad, but management were not willing to make that guarantee as they bank on 2019 Tour winner Egan Bernal.

Yates said: “For the future, Bernal is only going to get stronger and Froome's position in the team is only going to get more precarious on paper. I think it's well documented Froome likes to win and that's why he's won so much - he's a killer.”

From 2021 Froome will be riding for Israel Start-Up Nation, a team that joined the WorldTour this season after the owners of Professional Continental outfit Israel Cycling Academy bought the remains of the struggling Katusha-Alpecin squad.

But after eight Tour de France starts and four general classification wins, Froome will be joining a squad that has never raced the Tour.

On Froome’s chances of a record-equalling fifth yellow jersey, Yates said: “Anything is possible. It's never been done before at his age, only a couple of people have won five Grand Tours and then you look at the competition and you have to say the odds are highly against him. But that's not to say you can't get a 100/1 outsider win the Grand National, it's happened.

“I'd be very surprised if he won another Tour. He believes he can still be competitive and maybe if the circumstances turn out in his favour he could, but in my opinion it's very unlikely.”

ISN’s roster currently includes the likes of Dan Martin, sprinter André Greipel and British time triallist Alex Dowsett, but Yates says Froome’s signing will usher in a new era for the team.

He said: “A team needs a big leader to pull it out, and Froome is a big leader. He's a beast and his record stands out for all to see.”

Yates was a sports director with Team Sky from 2010 to 2012, when Froome was emerging as a Grand Tour contender.

In 2011, Froome finished second in the Vuelta a España behind Juan José Cobo (with the Brit then handed victory eight years later when Cobo was eventually stripped of the red jersey for doping). The following year Froome finished second behind Wiggins in the Tour de France.

Yates said: “In that Vuelta in 2011 he showed some phenomenal performances and also in the Tour in 2012 it was clear that he was the best climber.

“But I'm sure he could have won the Tour that year. It was obvious to me he was a very ambitious individual. “

>>> Ranked: Chris Froome’s best victories 

So what can cycling fans expect from ISN in the coming years?

“This could be the break they need as a team to really push them into the limelight,” Yates said.

“Froome will bring a lot to the team and not only on a physical level.

“Everyone will have to step up to the plate, make no bones about it, and it will elevate everyone, from mechanics to the masseurs to the management.

“Now things get serious."

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.