By Gregor Brown
Chris Froome took one big step forward when he signed for Claudio Corti's Team Barloworld for 2008 and 2009. The Kenya-born rider went from riding for a continental team to participating in the sport's pinnacle – the Tour de France.
"I saw him last year in some races and I could tell he was a good racer," said Barloworld team manager Claudio Corti to Cyclingnews on the 23-year-old. After testing him out in such prestigious one-day races as the Critérium International, Gent-Wevelgem, Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Corti decided to let Froome be the first Kenyan rider to line up in the Grande Boucle.
"I was told at the beginning of the year that riding the Tour was possible – it was not one-hundred percent," commented Froome. "I went well in the beginning of the season and I showed potential. I only really knew a couple of weeks before, there were a few of us up for the two spots."
Corti didn't regret his choice. "This year, he had his ups and downs, but when he was good he was flying. I remember the moment he was there at the base of the [Tour's] Alpe d'Huez with the favourites – he did a great ride," he said.
The Italian also remarked on Froome's maturity. "He is a serious rider and he has clear ideas. I can tell he wants to stay and live here in Italy – he rented a home, registered with the government and has a girlfriend."
The team manager looks forward to seeing his young talent develop. "He is strong in the time trial and on the climbs, in theory he is suited for stage races. He still has to improve; he is young." Froome agreed with his team manager's assessment: "The two strengths that I have are time trialling and climbing, and I prefer longer events – Grand Tours make sense. I obviously have a lot of work to do on my time trialling and climbing to reach that point."
Froome and Corti explained to Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview how the 2008 season went and what they expect in the years beyond. Read Froome takes cycling's big step.