Chris Froome has explained his decision not to participate in the Tour Down Under after UCI President Brian Cookson expressed his disappointment that the Sky rider had opted not to participate in the opening race on the WorldTour calendar.
Froome arrived in Australia on Monday to train ahead of his first race of the 2016 season, the Herald Sun Tour, which takes place from February 3-7.
“It’s definitely nothing against Down Under, but for the last five years I’ve only started racing in February and just at the moment I haven’t seen any reason to change that,” Froome told News Corp on arrival in Australia.
“It wasn’t that I was specifically trying to avoid coming to Down Under or anything, but how it fitted in with my program at home.”
At a press conference at the Tour Down Under at the weekend, Cookson had described Sky’s decision to field Froome in the category 2.1 Herald Sun Tour rather than the WorldTour opener as “odd.”
Cookson was speaking in the context of the promotion of the WorldTour, which faces being diminished in 2017 after Tour de France organiser ASO announced that it would withdraw its events from the series in protest at planned reforms.
“It’s not a helpful decision but one understands why these teams sometimes make these decisions,” Cookson said of Froome’s absence from the Tour Down Under. “Performance criteria will always overrule other criteria in certain teams and certain cases. It’s a long season and riders need to prepare in the best way, but certainly that was a puzzling decision to me.”
Froome has not raced at the Tour Down Under since his first season at Team Sky in 2010, more than a year and a half before he emerged as a Grand Tour contender. He added that the birth of his son last month was a further reason not to line out in January this time around.
“I’ve just had a little boy and I’ve been on a training camp already, if I was to come to Down Under it would have meant a lot of time away before my boy was even a month old,” Froome said.