'It would be massive to win a race in 2023, any race' - Chris Froome interview

Chris Froome Israel Premier Tech
Chris Froome at the recent Tour du Rwanda (Image credit: Noa Arnon/ Israel Premier Tech)

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Chris Froome is the peloton's Connor MacLeod, the Highlander played by Christopher Lambert in the 1986 cult movie, the immortal warrior who refuses to surrender and so transcends generations. 

Gen Z riders are rapidly taking over in the peloton and winning the biggest races, but Froome won't surrender or retire. He may not have won a race since the 2018 Giro d’Italia and he will turn 38 on May 20, but he is the only rider in the current peloton to have won all three Grand Tours during his career. Tadej Pogačar et al cannot make that claim just yet. 

Despite his age and his hugely difficult return to racing after his life-threatening crash at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné, Froome still loves hard training rides and long hours in the saddle.

Age has not wearied him. Indeed, Froome still has the enthusiasm and motivation to travel the world to races, criteriums, training camps and sponsor events, with a motivation and professionalism that puts many other riders to shame. 

Racing my bike still gives me a lot of joy and happiness. And as long as that's the case, I'm going to keep striving to get back to my old ways.

Froome is stubborn and steadfast but is also aware of the critics and sceptics, those who think he is past his best and not even deserving of a place with Israel-Premier Tech.

He now concedes it will be a hard task to return to the heady days of Team Sky when he won six Grand Tours between 2013 and 2018, but he believes that any kind of victory in 2023 can give him the elixir of his lost youth and the ability to win again.

Chris Froome Tour Down Under

(Image credit: Laura Fletcher/The Peloton Brief)

“A lot of people would say: ‘Why are you doing this? You used to win Grand Tours but now you’re a long way back in the pack.’ But I see it in another way,” Froome recently told Cyclingnews and a select group of other journalists as he began his 2023 season. 

“I was in a hospital bed for weeks after my 2019 crash, it took me almost a year to be able to walk without a limp. And now here I am racing in the highest level of races again. I just feel like everything from here on is a bonus for me and I see it all in an incredibly positive light. Racing my bike still gives me a lot of joy and happiness. And as long as that's the case, I'm going to keep striving to get back to my old ways.”

The last three years have been three seasons of defeat and disappointment for Froome. He initially talked up his hopes and ambitions of another Grand Tour win, perhaps trying to convince himself as much as those who listened to him.

Froome rode the 2020 Vuelta a España held in October and November but failed to leave a mark on the race. He rode the Tour de France in 2021 but an early crash left him fighting just to finish and that effort ruined the remainder of the season.

Last year, Froome finally saw a glimpse of a result at the Tour with a performance of which he could rightly be proud. He managed to join the early break on stage 12 to Alpe d’Huez and finished third behind Tom Pidcock and Louis Meintjes, as they held off the overall contenders on the legendary hairpins.   

“More than anything, last year proved that I'm not at that point where I was the previous two seasons, where it seemed I wasn't making any headway,” Froome said.

“Last year was the first time that I was just completely pain-free from the accident, and I felt I was able to make some good progress. If I can build on that progress this year and hopefully get closer to being up there, where it really counts, that'd be the dream scenario for me.”

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Time is against Froome and every setback costs him dearly. COVID-19 ended his 2022 Tour de France before Paris, and it struck him again in December after an Israel-Premier Tech training camp.

To make up for it, Froome spent five weeks in Australia at the start of the year, riding the Tour Down Under and then spending more time training in the summer heat with teammate Simon Clarke.

Last week, Froome was at the Tour du Rwanda, where he was hailed a role model by African riders. He inaugurated the 'Field of Dreams' bike centre built by Israel-Premier Tech with the support of other donations from around the world. He also went on the attack on stage 5, only for a puncture, double wheel change and then a crash to end his hopes.

I now realise this is a window of my life, it's only going to be from the age of 23 up until potentially towards 40.

Froome now has fifteen seasons as a pro in his legs and the scars on his body tell the tale of his 2019 Dauphiné crash. Yet they also highlight his invaluable experience.

“In terms of the actual workload, the training and everything, that's not harder than ever before,” he said, convinced he still has the physical ability to compete even in Grand Tours if everything goes his way.

“I still enjoy the training, the sacrifice, all that side of the sport. That comes relatively easy, easy for me.

“I know what I've done to get ready for Grand Tours in the past and I'd like to think if I can apply myself in a similar way, I'd get very close to where I left off.

“But it's never just been winning that drives me, it's more about wanting to make the most of this window of opportunity as a professional athlete. I know that in ten years’ time I won't be racing my bike and I'd like to be able to look back and just say I've given it absolutely everything. To be able to walk away from the sport eventually with no regrets."

Chris Froome Israel Premier Tech

(Image credit: Noa Arnon/ Israel Premier Tech)

Froome comes across as a well-mannered choir boy, the Tintin or Benjamin Button of the peloton, with his smile, distaste for disc brakes, social media posts and love of going on the attack all highlighting his love of every aspect of cycling.

Few people remember Froome’s long journey from riding a mountain bike in Kenya with his mentor David Kinjah to racing in Europe with Barloworld and then joining Team Sky. Froome may be quietly spoken, but he has always been a fighter.

“I fought tooth and nail to get into the European scene,” Froome said. “I got some results, but I had no clue what I was getting into. When I signed with Barloworld back in 2008, I think my dream was to win a mountain stage of the Tour, so to be sitting where I am now, seven Grand Tours down the line... I’m extremely grateful for what I have had so far.

“I now realise this is a window of my life, it's only going to be from the age of 23 up until potentially towards 40. I want to make the most of that window while I'm still in it.”

Chris Froome Rwanda

(Image credit: Israel Premier Tech)

When Froome joined Israel-Premier Tech in 2021, the length of his contract was not formally revealed, but team owner Sylvan Adams suggested Froome would end his career with the team.

He does not earn the €5 million per season as has often been reported, and Cyclingnews understands that the figure was linked to a sponsor that eventually opted not to come onboard. Adams has since suggested Froome has a rolling contract, but the rider apparently agreed a five-year deal in 2021 that will run until the end of 2025 when he will be 40 years old. Froome is keen to race on until then. 

“I don't think anything's 100% sure in life but I don't have any plans to stop anytime soon,” he said. 

A return to the form that helped Froome win the Tour de France four times remains the carrot hanging ahead of him when he is out on the road. It’s something to aim at. 

“I got a lot of pleasure from being able to win Grand Tours and go from one win to another at a very high level, so the goal for me is to try and try and get back to a similar kind of level,” Froome said.

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“Of course, I'm realistic about it. I know, given everything I've been through the last few years, that winning the Tour is not something right here, right now. I can't say it’s my goal this year. But it’s there at the back of my mind. It is a carrot.

“I know how to prepare for Grand Tours, so I'd like to think I can still do that. But I know there are other steps I need to take before that becomes a realistic goal. I’m taking them one goal at a time.”

Froome’s first goal of 2023 is to win a race.

“It’d be massive to win a race in 2023, any race” he admitted. 

“At the same time, I want to work towards being up there on the GC in a stage race again. The Alpe d'Huez stage at the Tour last year was hugely motivating for me.

“I suffered with COVID-19 after the Tour, but I was happy because I could reflect on being able to be in the breakaway and to have been up there in the pointy end of the race. That meant so much to me.

“The biggest thing about last season was to have a spell of a few months where I didn't have any injuries and I didn't have any sickness. I did some good training, good nutrition and got back to the basics.

“Now I just need to keep going, keep working and keep racing."

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Stephen Farrand
Head of News

Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.