In the second part of our interview with Chris Froome we continue the discussion about the Tour before moving onto Chris’s life in Monaco. (You can find part one of the interview here.)
Romain: This year’s Tour de France has a very mountainous parcours. Does that give you an advantage?
Chris: There are lots of strong climbers in the peloton but, yes, it’s good for me and for other guys, such as [Alberto] Contador and [Nairo] Quintana. But I think with this year’s Tour de France you will have to be really strong in the mountains and also good in the time trials. There isn’t a lot of time-trialling, but there’s enough to make a difference. I think if you lose 1-2 minutes in the time trials then that could potentially have you out of GC. So, yes, I think the winner of this year’s Tour will have to do a bit of everything: climb with the best and time-trial with the best. It’s not for just a pure climber or time-trialist.
Romain: You live in Monaco so you must know the route for the team time trial?
Chris: I’ve trained on that road and time-trialled along it a lot. It’s a fast road and it will be important to put in a really good performance. Hopefully it’s a day when we can take a bit of time out of our competitors.
Romain: Have you reconnoitred any of the other Tour stages?
Chris: Yes, I’ve been to see the stages in Corsica. That’s going to be tough particularly at the beginning of the Tour when everyone is so nervous. I’ll need to survive those days. I’ve also been to Mont Ventoux and now, in the Dauphine, we’ll see the descent after Alpe d’Huez which we’ll do in the Tour and also the Tour time trial. I’m happy with what I’ve seen already but it’s going to be a really hard Tour.
Romain: You grew up in Africa. Was winning the Tour de France a childhood dream?
Chris: I only saw the Tour for the first time at maybe 15-16 years of age. It was while I was at boarding school in South Africa. I remember seeing Ivan Basso and Lance Armstrong racing against one another in the mountains and I remember thinking it was fantastic and such a great atmosphere. I thought that’s what I want to do one day. But it really felt like something far away and I didn’t really believe it was possible. But each year that I’ve been cycling it’s become more and more a reality and now it’s quite strange to look around in the peloton and to see Ivan Basso, someone I really looked up to ten years or so ago.
Romain: What was your childhood dream if it wasn’t riding the Tour?
Chris: It was only quite late on that I decided I was going to be a professional cyclist. Up until my early twenties I had been studying economics at university. My two brothers are both accountants so maybe I would have done something similar. But I’m quite happy I don’t have a nine-to-five job in an office.
Romain: Did you have a role model?
Chris: Somebody who really inspired me when I was younger was David Kinja, the captain of the Kenyan cycling team. He lived a very simple life in a township but every day he invited me to go training. It was off-road mountain biking – the roads in Kenya are terrible – but it wasn’t anything technical. It was more like road bike training. He became a role model for me because he made the most of his life even though he didn’t have much: just his bike, his love for cycling and a healthy lifestyle.
Romain: Are you the first Kenyan cyclist in the peloton?
Chris: The first Kenyan-born cyclist in the peloton but Robbie Hunter was the first African to win a stage in the Tour. I regard myself as British.
Romain: But you feel a bit African?
Chris: I feel British, I know I’m British, my family is British but I definitely have a very strong connection with Africa and my African roots. I’ve never lived in the UK before so Africa and the outdoor lifestyle is something close to my heart.
Romain: Let’s now talk about your life in Monaco – quite different to that in Africa?
Chris: Yes and it’s good for me to return to Kenya and South Africa at least once a year to see family, come back down to earth and experience something more normal. Monaco’s a special place.
Romain: My newspaper also prints the Monaco-Matin so it would be nice to cover a bit of your life here with your fiancé. What do you do in your free time?
Chris: I enjoy underwater fishing in Cap d’Ail. But mostly on my recovery days I just try to relax. You can’t really go out much because you need to rest though I really enjoy being in the mountains behind Monaco exploring the rivers and forests. But we do that outside of the season, when I am not racing. Most of the time, when I have a recovery day, I just try to sleep most of the day so that I’ve enough energy for the next one.
Romain: Which are your training routes around here?
Chris: I start off in Monaco and ride up to La Turbie, La Peille, down to L’Escarene, Col de St Roche, Col du Turini, Sospel, Col du Braus and down to the valley in Ventimiglia (Italy). Then I can either come back along the coast road or via St Agnes and the Col de La Madone.
Romain: So that’s, what, 120km?
Sheree: What’s your best time up the Madone?
Chris: 32 minutes, which I did today on one of the only occasions I’ve gone flat out from bottom to top.
Romain: You like the area?
Chris: Just having the stability of a home in one place and it’s fantastic for training. In terms of my cycling career, I’ve really been able to improve a lot since I came here. If you go behind Monaco and up into the mountains, it’s beautiful. You don’t have any traffic and you have long climbs that are similar to those in the Alps.
Romain: Who do you usually train with?
Chris: Richie Porte, sometimes Philippe Gilbert, the Aussie guys like Simon Gerrans, but I mainly train alone. If I’m doing efforts, it’s quite hard to ride with other people. Otherwise it’s more or less with my teammates.
Romain: So, outside of the races, what else do you enjoy doing? Do you have any favourite restaurants?
Chris: I’m not sure I want to let on and have everyone go there. I really like restaurant Constantine, they use very natural ingredients and it almost feels like home cooking.
Romain: Do you enjoy other sports? For example, do you go and watch AS Monaco?
Chris: No, I don’t follow football very much to be honest. I find it quite hard to keep up with other sports when I’m always on the road but I enjoyed rugby when I was younger and I watch it when it’s on the television. I was fortunate enough to be invited into the Red Bull enclosure for the recent Monaco F1 GP. I’d never been to a race before and it was super.
Romain: Just to finish. You’ll be keeping the O.Symetric chain rings for the Tour?
Chris: I really enjoy using them. I feel they work well for me so I don’t think I should change them. I’ve found since using them in 2011 that I’ve started doing really well. So l’m happy.
Romain: Especially in the time trials?
Chris: Definitely in the time trials, I feel a big difference and also in the mountains.
Romain: The inventor Jean-Louis Talo comes from here, he lives in Menton.
Chris: I catch up with him every now and then for a coffee. He’s a super guy.
Romain: Thanks for your time and good luck for the Dauphine and, of course, the Tour.
I couldn’t resist asking one tiny question! I’m hoping I’ll be able to catch up with Chris and his fiancée Michelle post-Tour to swap recipes – Michelle’s a keen baker – and pose my own questions.