Chris Froome (Team Sky) admits he felt the weight of the world on his shoulders as he entered the 2014 season as Tour de France champion, but two years on, and once again in the same boat, his outlook is markedly different.
The 30-year-old, cutting a relaxed figure as he sat down in front of journalists at Team Sky’s media day in Mallorca last week, explained how the pressure has eased over the last couple of years, and how fatherhood has only sharpened his sense of perspective.
“If I compare where I am right now to where I was in 2014 after winning the Tour de France the year before, I feel a lot more confident in myself and a lot more at ease in the position that I’m in. I don’t feel as though the whole world is on my shoulders like I did then,” he said.
“There was a lot of pressure after winning in 2013. I don’t think that until you’ve been through that and been through the build-up to the Tour for the second time that you really get to fully appreciate it.”
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In 2014 Froome failed to live up to the lofty standards he set in 2013, when he claimed a string of stage race titles en route to winning the maillot jaune in July, though he was keen to point out that his inability to back up his Tour victory was simply down to the ill fortune of crashing.
He needed a strong 2015 to convince himself that his success wouldn’t be fleeting, that he would be able to enjoy the sustained success that he feels his talents merit. With that under his belt, and his long-term future at Team Sky secured through to the end of 2018, that weight has been lifted from his shoulders.
“I think two years more experience in the legs and being the leader for two more years coming into the Tour has given me that little bit more experience and perspective on approaching the season,” he said.
“I feel that everything in my personal life and my professional life is in a really good place at the moment. I’m happy, obviously I’ve re-signed with the team for another two years now. I feel as if I’m in a great place. It was good to get the contract sorted out early in the season so that it isn’t on my mind when we get into the racing later and I can really focus on what needs to be done.”
One of the contributing factors to Froome’s healthy state of mind is his recent venture into fatherhood after his wife Michelle gave birth to a baby boy, Kellan, last month. Some sportspeople suffer under the various strains – both emotional and physical – of parenthood, while others can channel the experience to the benefit of their careers. Froome, who acknowledges that he won’t be around much to see his son grow up, is determined to belong to the latter camp.
“It’s interesting because it makes me feel like any time I go away now I’ve got to make it count. I’m not just going away to be with my teammates – I’m going to work as hard as I can,” he said.
"I’d much rather be at home with my son and seeing him grow up but if I’m going to be away then I’d like it to be for a good reason. I want him to be proud of his old man. I feel like I’ve got everything to race for.”