How the hell… isn’t Chris Froome considered one of the greats?

His results are impressive, his standing with a large contingent of cycling fans less so. Euan asks … how the hell isn’t Chris Froome considered one of the greats?

As I write, Chris Froome is a little over three weeks away from winning his fifth Tour de France. It’s far from his, but if he does stand on the top step of the podium in Paris, he will have won five Tours. That would put him level with the great names of the race’s history: Bernard Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx and Miguel Indurain. You don’t even want to consider those riders he’d be ahead of.

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And yet, no one seems to be having a conversation about where Froome figures on the greatest of all-time lists. In fact, very few are even making a case he should be on that list at all.

But why not? Winning four Tours isn’t his only achievement. He’s the current winner of all three Grand Tours. He’s won six Grand Tours in the time that Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador have each won two.

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And it’s not as if he’s won all these races by grinding out results in a dull but effective style. Think of his attack in 2013 on Ax 3 Domaines; the demon descending in 2016; stage 11 of that same year where he got caught the right side of a wind-related split with Peter Sagan. At the Giro, he even put in the kind of decisive balls-out, do-or-die, long-range attack that the sport’s fans were crying out for.

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To win one Grand Tour takes years of build up, sacrifice and mental toughness. To dominate the Tour de France for as long as Chris Froome has done takes even more. It’s an exceptional achievement, a once-in-a-generation phenomenon.

Don’t worry, I’m not even convincing myself with this… Something doesn’t sit right when considering where Chris Froome comes on the greatest of all-time lists. It’s a complex business and it doesn’t even have anything to do with his Salbutamol levels. Be honest, if there had been no asthma-inhaler cloud hanging over that Vuelta victory, would you be willing to consider Froome on the GOAT list?

Partly I blame the team he rides for – Sky have the biggest budget with the smallest focus. Would Froome have won six Grand Tours if he’d ridden for Trek or AG2R? When the rubber meets the road, Sky only have eyes for GTs.

There’s also all the scepticism Sky have brought on themselves. Based on actual known facts, there are enough questions about how Sky get the big race winning results to take the shine off any of their triumphs. No matter how purely they may have achieved them.

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If races were judged on artistic merit, Froome would struggle to make the time cut. In any sport, those that dominate the greatest of all time lists are the athletes with flair, the ones who caught the eye and imagination while delivering the big results. In this generation of riders, Peter Sagan fits that description in a way Froome doesn’t.

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Finally, Grand Tours are “all” Chris Froome has won of any note. He has no World Championship (he hardly even rides them), no Olympic gold (again, never a contender in the road race), no Monument on his palmares. When you think about the most legendary names in cycling, they’ve all won more that one type of big race.

But maybe the main reason is that the greatest of all time debate is a subjective thing. If it was objective, Froome would be right up there in the top ten. A flash of yellow next to black and white men of yesterday. Sadly for him, it takes a lot more than results to earn your place there.

So how the hell isn’t Chris Froome considered one of the greats? Because he just hasn’t caught the fans’ imagination … 

Header image: © GETTY/Action Plus/Laurent Lairys

 

3 thoughts on “How the hell… isn’t Chris Froome considered one of the greats?

  1. sevencyclist says:

    Aside from the doping that Lance Armstrong did, I see Chris Froome exactly like I see Lance Armstrong. Because he has the team that focuses on the GT, that’s why he wins all the time. Your observations are spot on!

  2. atlaz says:

    Look at Indurain’s palmares; he only really ends up differentiated from Froome because of the road worlds and tt worlds titles and arguably Froome balances that with his Vuelta win and 3 in a row grand tours (he also has an Olympic medal and a podium at the TT worlds). It’s not even that Indurain was particularly interesting in the manner of Hinault, Anquetil or Merckx so he doesn’t have that on Froome either.

    Doping? Well we know Merckx and Anquetil doped and the fact Hinault took a ban rather than a test tells us a lot. Then we have Indurain who had a salbutamol positive…

    So what are we left with to compare Froome against his limited peer group? Not much.

    I think the real issue is media saturation. Even in the day of Big Mig we didn’t have as much blah blah about riders and racing. The sheer volume of articles, TV, radio, blog posts, comments written just exhausts people’s interests and I think a person with a “normal” personality just doesn’t engage as much as someone who is a bit different (i.e. Sagan).

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