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Froome's Tour de France confidence grows after beating Contador

Stephen Farrand
Tour de France
Chris Froome (Sky) flanked by Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Cadel Evans (BMC).

Chris Froome (Sky) flanked by Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and Cadel Evans (BMC).

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Chris Froome's overall victory at the Tour of Oman may well be go down in the history books as one small step during a long career but the significance of his performance is surely a giant leap forward for his chances of winning the Tour de France in July.

Froome finished second in the 2011 Vuelta a España and then second in last year's Tour de France, but the difference between first and second is huge because of the pressure, responsibility and all the extra obligations that come with a leaders jersey.

Sky manager Dave Brailsford and head coach Tim Kerrison were both in Oman to observe Froome's performance, how he interacted with his teammates and how they worked for Froome as a leader.

He seemed to pass the first test of 2013, learning more about team leadership, race leadership and competing against Alberto Contador in the decisive moments of a race. There was the odd moment in the race when Froome was caught out of position and Contador rode aggressively to try and take advantage. However, Froome was markedly fitter than the Spaniard and responded clinically to his attacks, imposing his authority by winning stage five. He headed home to Monte Carlo with much more confidence, a word he repeated like a mantra whenever he talked about the significance of his week in Oman.

"It feels like it's been a very fast progression, I've just been trying to take it all in," Froome told the written media present in Oman during an informal press event.

"It's still very early days but when I came here there were question marks about where I'd be against all these big names. I guess my confidence has grown this week."

Team spirit

Froome bought his teammates a round of drinks the night before the final stage as a symbolic way of paying them back for their hard work and support during the Tour of Oman.

All the riders worked hard during the six days of racing, with Richie Porte playing an especially vital role in finale of the mountain stages. The friendly Tasmanian and the Kenyan-born Briton already have a special relationship. They are both based in Monte Carlo during the season and it is likely that Porte will go on to be Froome’s most vital teammate at the Tour de France.

"The guys have done a fantastic job this week and a round of drinks is nothing in comparison to what they did for me," Froome said of his teammates.

"It's quite a daunting feeling knowing that everyone is there for you, but being able to finish it off and win a stage is great. The fact that I can finish it off like that and secure the win makes it all worth it. All of us will come away with a smile on our faces.

"The confidence people have in me has grown. I think coming here my teammates were perhaps wondering if I would be on the podium or top five. But to come away having beaten a lot of GC contenders, that gives my teammates a lot of confidence and naturally raises your profile as leader."

The Froome-Wiggins relationship

The relationship between Froome and Bradley Wiggins will no doubt be analysed and dissected as much as Froome’s racing and results.

For now, an amnesty seems to be holding and Wiggins worked hard for Froome in Oman. However, there appears to be little empathy between them. At stage starts and finishes in Oman, each man did his own thing: they were rarely seen chatting, they did not travel together during the many transfers nor did they line up at the start together.

Brailsford and the Team Sky management are working hard to ensure everyone portrays a sense of harmony and brotherhood. Wiggins said he hadn't talked to Froome about how to handle the pressure of stage race leadership but Froome seems happy to stay on message, saying that Wiggins had mentored him to victory.

"Bradley's raced in a different role, helping me, looking after me, he's actually been really great," Froome said.

"It's been great having his input. He's been through all this last year; having the team behind him, having that pressure, so it's been really good for me to have him by my side and in a way mentor me through this. It's only someone like him, who has achieved so much, who is able to help like that."

The two riders' long-term goals and ambitions highlight their distinct differences of character and personality. Wiggins is targeting the Giro d'Italia this year after acknowledging he didn’t want to face the same pressures and go through the same routine needed to prepare for the Tour de France. Froome revealed that he hopes to target the Tour for the rest of his career. Froome is chalk to Wiggins' cheese.

"I know I have limited time as a cyclist, probably another 8 to 12 years maximum, so for me personally I want to be best I can be for those 8-12 years. That means lining up at Tour each year with goal of at least being in contention," Froome said.

"I'd love to win the Tour one day, if I win it then I'm sure hunger would be there to go back for it."

Taking on Contador

Froome was flanked by two former Tour de France winners on the final Tour of Oman podium. It is still only February but the significance of Froome beating Contador – arguably the best stage rider of his generation – is huge, especially psychologically.

"The hardest moment was on Friday, on the final climb, when Contador attacked and I was isolated. I had to close the gap or he would have won the race," Froome recalled.

"He is definitely the rider to look out for when it comes to stage racing, so to be in front of him at the moment is a good place to be, it leaves me feeling very confident."

Building the season on good foundations

Despite the Tour of Oman being his first race of the 2013 season, Froome had the form to get the better of Contador and win the distinctive red jersey.

After the efforts of targeting the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España in 2012, Froome spent most of the winter training in the rarefied air of Johannesburg, where he now has a house. He clearly has laid down a solid foundation to his season. He revealed he still 2.5kg above his best race weight but that the bilharzias infection that has affected him on and off since 2009 now seems under control.

"Oman has been a really good indication where my form is at the moment, and that the training I've done over the past couple of months in Johannesburg in South Africa has been the right kind of training," he explained.

Froome will no doubt begin the quality workouts in the hills of the South of France this week as he starts to think of his next race and next showdown with Contador, Evans, Nibali and Rodriguez: Tirreno- Adriatico (March 6-12).

He tried to play down expectations of another victory but will surely be looking to continue wining and so take another step towards success at the Tour de France in July.

unc_sammy More than 1 year ago
July is still that far. Those spring allergies, flu virus and training accidents may still come into factor.
doctornurse More than 1 year ago
Okay, so a few things about this... First, its February- Apart from injury or illness, Froome's challenge is to maintain this amazing level of form for 6 months. Mind you, Wiggins was abe to do this last year, so even if we assume that he can he also has to remember that Mr Contador is still building his form. AC came into the Vuelta with 0 racing for 6 months and was clearly below his best (and still won- beating an overcooked Froome to a pulp in the process). It is still concievable that AC still has more improving to do before July as well. Second- Motivation. This was an audition ride for Froome who has a very finite window of opportunity to prove that he could take a stage race team to victory after he flamed out in the 2012 Vuelta where he was also the team leader. The boss and the BIG boss were watching, and Froome very intelligently prepared for this race and came in flying. I suggest that Contador did not train to that level of intensity last winter, primarily because his motivations are different and so its concievable that the timing of his preparations are also different. Third- Support. Last year SKY had 9 men on top form at the same time for a single race in July and their domination of the proceedings demonstrated that they are very good at doing that. This year, the TdF is NOT the only SKY priority, as they have prioritised the Classics and the Giro for top performances as well by key riders. So it remains to be seen if they (particularly the Giro mountain domestiques) will have the same ability to support Froome in July...Contador does not have this issue... Fourth- Experience. While Froome did a wonderful job winning the Tour of Oman, I remember when Jani Brankovic also beat Contador in Paris Nice in MAY- Uhmmmm...has ANYONE seen him on a Grand Tour podium lately? A one week stage race in February is a MASSIVELY different experience than a 3 week Grand Tour, especially when you are a favourite to win as Froome must be considered at this point. That pressure of being a favourite, never mind a favourite in the MJ turned normaly mild mannered Cadel evans into a snarling grump who threatened to cut someone's head off, and made Wiggo use language that made some sailors blush. How will Froome manage all of this? Its one thing to be on top form as a domestique, when you can live quietly in the background, but teh TdF is a different animal... So we should applaud Froome for a wonderful ride in the Tour of Oman where he beat Contsdor, but until he wins a GT with Contador in top Giro 2011 form, I will hold my coronation flowers... Cheers!
jonesy97 More than 1 year ago
look mate this guy knows his stuff he has podiumed in 2/3 gts he has ridden. give him a break
maplethedog More than 1 year ago
I agree totally. Contador has proven that he can take the pressure and then some, and Le Tour is WAY different than the Vuelta or even the Giro. And you're right about Brakovic, he raced a great race that year in the race to the sun, he was on top form, but those sorts of things have happened before-a guy is on perfect form, catches a break or two, and the contenders aren't quite there yet. Even though Sky does have other interests, they are formidable when it comes to grand tours, though. The thing noone has really talked about this year is the fact that Contador has way better domestiques this season, it'll be interesting to see how he performs with Roche, Kreuziger, etc.
Duardy More than 1 year ago
At this point it is hard to make some serious estimation. IMO, Contador was the stronger on that tour. Why? Contador droop Frome and was watching Nibali, and then Frome slowly closed the gap and attack. By the time Contador try to get on his wheel, there wasn’t much race ground left. So bottom line. Frome sneaked on Contador 300 long meters plus the time bonus. It wasn’t that Frome crank up the phase and Contador couldn’t keep up.
consultant1 More than 1 year ago
yes obviously stronger and beaten by nearly 30 seconds......
Duardy More than 1 year ago
Did you included the time bonus?
Scott Cugno More than 1 year ago
None of that matter it's who has the best doctors.
ellenbrook2001 More than 1 year ago
sure SKY found the best doctor but what a cost??????????????
miba111 More than 1 year ago
Does anyone else think that Wiggo is preparing the groundwork for any excuses that he may need at the Giro and Tour? With his eye for history he just CAN'T be happy not to have full support this year. Loving the Giro and not wanting the pressure sounds like ... obfuscations. But good luck to him, he's a great rider and a great entertainer in his sourpuss kind of way. Can't wait for this season to unfold
ellenbrook2001 More than 1 year ago
hahaha sure FROOM flying but i am very happy SKY policy zero on doping? but they are going faster FROOM go so fast at the end of the climb has the others riders are dead???unbelievable FROOM hes the star of the future hes going too win 7 tour DE FRANCE so easy he come from too another planet then he say he didn't train hard yet so hes more too come hes going too go faster on the climb the LANCE ?a new training new area in cycling SKY did found the right balance riders or could not perform now do the peace making in the moutain ??? i am glad SKY found a new drug or cannot be detected so here we go again
jayreeding More than 1 year ago
Poor grammar, negative tone and a lot of assumptions here, but unfortunately it it all probably true. Look back in recent history on how dominant riders rode prior to getting popped and it looks just like Froome. Back story is the same too. No real history and it is if they just appear from now where. Also, the same claim of "this is how I ride when the peloton is clean"..

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