Chris Froome: Valverde's Worlds win shows age not as big a factor as people think

Chris Froome (Team Sky) has said that Alejandro Valverde’s victory in the 2018 World Championships has shown him that age does not have to matter in professional cycling.

Valverde’s World Championship victory made him the second oldest rider to capture the rainbow jersey after Joop Zoetemelk, who was roughly six months older than Valverde when he won it in 1985.

Froome will be 34 by the time he tackles the Tour de France - which, if he wins, would make him the fourth oldest winner of the Tour after Firmin Lambot, Henri Pelissier and Cadel Evans. He has previously been reported as saying he wants to retire at 38.

“I still want to carry on for another few years that’s for sure, and seeing Valverde perform at the World Champs like he did last year can only give me motivation that age is not as big a factor as some people make it out to be,” Froome told Spanish daily El Mundo of Valverde’s win last year in the Worlds at the age of 38.

During the interview, Froome covered a range of topics. As well as confirming he felt that banning power meters and race radios would have little effect on the sport, Froome continued to express his opposition to salary caps, something supporters of the move say would make the sport more interesting.

“In my opinion, that would defeat the object of having successful teams, because you want to be successful so you can maybe go to the sponsors and ask for a bigger budget,” the Team Sky leader said.

“We have the biggest budget now, but that wasn’t always this way. When we started back in 2010 we were definitely not the biggest team, but with success, then you can grow and the team grows. I think it would be sad if the teams weren’t able to grow from being successful.”

In another interview published in Spanish daily Marca, Froome confirmed that the 2019 World Championships in Yorkshire would be one of his big objectives but that he is unlikely to ride the Vuelta a Espana. He did not specify if he will target the road race or time trial, although his past history and the rolling course around Yorkshire would suggest the latter.

“After the bronze in the 2017 time trial, a medal there would be the real icing on the cake,” he said.

Geraint Thomas has already told Cyclingnews that in his case, the Worlds time trial would likely be his main goal.

On track for the Tour de France

Froome opted to skip the UAE Tour after riding the Colombia 2.1 race, telling Marca that he had “overdone it on the training at altitude".

"I paid a price for that. That’s why I needed some extra rest. But now I’m fine,” Froome said, insisting his build-up to the Tour de France - where he will target a fifth victory - are on track.

Froome also delivered some forthright praise of Spanish cycling and argued that Mikel Landa, who has had an uneven couple of years with crashes and illness, could yet win the Tour de France.

“He was one of my key backers during the 2017 Tour when he was only a second off the podium. I have no doubt that his time will come, he’s perfectly capable of winning the race,” said Froome.

When asked by El Mundo about the legacy he wanted to leave the sport, Froome confirmed that a record-equalling fifth Tour de France is top of his list.  

“Naturally I really want to try and win a fifth Tour de France. That would be really special for me, to enter into this group of legends with Eddy Merckx, Hinault, Indurain and Anquetil, especially in the modern era. It’s been a very long time that a rider has done that,” Froome said.

As for if he thought that last year’s salbutamol case would affect his legacy, Froome said: “I hope not, I hope not. I think anyone who takes the time to actually look at the details of last year’s case, they would see that I certainly didn’t do anything wrong. So yeah, I’d just say if anyone has any doubts, at least look at the details and then you’ll get a true picture of what actually happened.”

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