Chris Froome has offered his take on the balance of power at the top of the WorldTour, arguing that other teams have caught up with his former team, Ineos Grenadiers, but admitting that his current employers, Israel-Premier Tech, aren’t there yet.
Froome won the Tour de France four times, along with two titles at the Vuelta a España and one at the Giro d’Italia, during a time when Ineos - then known as Team Sky - dominated Grand Tour racing.
After winning seven editions of the Tour in eight years, the team have missed out on the past two yellow jerseys as Tadej Pogačar UAE Team Emirates has stormed onto the scene. In addition, they have seen their stage race prowess curtailed by Jumbo-Visma, and specifically by Primož Roglič, winner of the past three editions of the Vuelta.
"Team Sky were setting the benchmark, if you like, but in previous years other teams have caught up," Froome said at an Israel-Premier Tech team presentation this week.
"At the moment there are certainly two or three of the bigger teams who are on a very similar level, especially when it comes to riding Grand Tours and controlling the Grand Tours, in terms of the general classification. So it does seem to be much more of an even playing field in that sense."
Despite this being a team launch, Froome wasn’t quite tempted to place Israel-Premier Tech in that bracket, but argued they’re on their way to closing the gap. His signing in 2021 was supposed to signal new intent after the team had stepped up to the WorldTour in 2020 and, even if injuries have continued to hold him back, the team have continued to invest, signing Michael Woods, Jakob Fuglsang, and Giacomo Nizzolo for 2022, as well as welcoming Premier Tech as a title sponsor.
"In terms of Israel Start-Up Nation, I wouldn’t say we are one of those teams necessarily setting the benchmark for general classification riding in Grand Tours, but that’s hopefully something we can keep building on in next few years with the goal to try and reach that level. I think we’ve got a great platform now to really strengthen the team over next few years, which is what I’d really like to see," Froome said.
"Last year the team took a noticeable step up and I think, especially with Premier Tech coming on board this year, there’s momentum, there’s positive energy. I really feel there’s a good buzz in the team, everyone came to the camp keen to work hard, with some ambitious goals for this year. I’m really looking forward to being part of that journey and seeing the team keep stepping up."
After spending 2021 largely off the pace due to ongoing physical issues stemming from his career-threatening crash at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné, Froome has suffered further setback ahead of the 2022 season. He tore the tensor fascia late tendon in his leg in pre-season training, and, although he didn’t confirm when he will start racing, he did indicate his early-season will be affected.
"I didn’t make it to this camp last year, so I’m really happy to be here and starting training with the guys, but my preparations have definitely been delayed," he said.
"I’ll only start racing a bit later as well. I’m happy to be here getting the work in. I’m not feeling pain at the moment but I have to take it steady with a slower progression in the first part of the season."
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