Yesterday (Sunday 24 June) cyclist Chris Froome won his third Tour de France, and his second in a row (he also won in 2013). He becomes the first cyclist to retain the Tour de France title since Miguel Indurain did so in 1994 and 1995 (Lance Armstrong’s wins have been erased from the record books, as they should, for cheating).
Winning the Tour de France is quite an achievement, one could argue the hardest achievement in sport. 3 weeks of cycling for 5-6 hours each day, with only two rest days over the 21-day race. It is the supreme test of endurance, which is sadly why doping is (was?) so common; if you can gain just a few percent in your recovery or endurance it will add up to a large advantage over 3 weeks.Froome is a quiet character, very determined but not particularly interested in being a friendly, chatty sports star. This is probably the reason that he has not really been taken to the hearts of the British public. He is not as obviously funny or entertaining as Bradley Wiggins, who was the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France, in 2012. Whereas Wiggins has been made a “sir”, Froome has not, and surely this will be rectified in the New Year’s honours list at the end of this year. Not that getting a knighthood should be any validation of anything, but it is patently not fair for Wiggins to have been so honoured and for Froome not to have been. Froome is now 31 and, according to an interview I heard on the radio with the Sky team manager David Brailsford, there is no reason why he cannot go on for several more years and win a fourth and fifth (and even sixth) title. Brailsford thinks Froome has the ability physically to win 2 or 3 more, it is really a question of whether he can motivate himself to make the sacrifices necessary to do so.
There are four cyclists who have won the Tour de France five times,
- Jacques Angquetil (1957, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964)
- Eddy Merckx (1969, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1974)
- Bernard Hinault (1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, 1985)
- Miguel Indurain (1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995)
Of these, only Indurain has won the five titles consecutively. With 3 wins now under his belt, there can surely be no greater motivation for Froome than to join this elite group of 5-time winners, and even to try to surpass them and win a sixth.