I was very fortunate during last year’s Tour to be unemployed. I am able to say that now, in retrospect, because after quitting a job on principle, I got the job I most wanted. At the time of course, I was nervous. Who quits a job on principle in an economy like this one?

My emergency job search turned up three good prospects, two of which I thought would be easy to get based on my qualifications and connections, the third was the job I have now, the one I really wanted. It was the long shot, and it came through. I was lucky, and as cycling teaches us over and over again, it’s better to be lucky than good.

As it turns out, I didn’t get either of the jobs I thought I was a shoe-in, because I was “overqualified.” I was too good. It’s nice to hear people think you’re good at what you do, but when you need a paycheck it’s less than cold comfort. It’s insult, and injury on top.

I bring all this up because, as I watch this year’s Tour, I see Chris Froome going through the same thing. Asked to be Bradley Wiggins’ chief lieutenant on the road, Froome has shown himself to be, on some days, even better than his boss.

First he was asked to sit up on Stage 11 when off the front with Wiggins grinding along behind. Then again today, as the Sky pair sought to overhaul a solo breakaway by Alejandro Valverde up a steep Pyrenean slope, Froome gapped his leader and had to wait.

The press have tried desperately to stir conflict within the Sky team by suggesting that Froome is resentful of having to maintain loyalty to Wiggins, while the rider’s own responses have been well measured. Clearly, Froome is doing his job, all the while reminding his bosses and everyone else that he might just be the strongest rider in France at the moment.

Without hauling out the baggage of the Hinault/LeMond intrasquad rivalry that is the template for just this situation, it should be said that pro cycling has little if any room for mutiny. Until a team leader shows himself unable to lead, as Cadel Evans has over the last few days, then a team’s total loyalty must always remain with him. The margin between victory and defeat is too fine to make any real space for freelance ambition.

So that leaves Chris Froome, quite possibly the strongest rider in the race, headed for the second step of the podium. His loyalty is admirable, but he must feel crushed not to be able to fulfill every rider’s ultimate dream, to wear yellow on the Champs Élysées.

Oh, he’ll be roundly praised, and Wiggins will pay lip service to the effort of the team. He has already made a Hinault-esque promise to help Froome win a future Tour, but it’s a bit early for the side-burned Sky captain to start playing kingmaker. Next year’s Tour promises to feature one Alberto Contador, not to mention a possibly resurgent Andy Schleck and a more-experienced Vincenzo Nibali.

On the face of it, Wiggins’ promise is generous. Beneath the surface, it is more or less worthless, almost an insult.

Chris Froome is lucky. He has a job, a good one, and a steady paycheck. He’ll be a hot property for next season as genuine grand tour GC contenders are perhaps the rarest talents in the pro peloton. Unfortunately, he’s overqualified for the job he’s got now.

His reward will be finding a new job and hoping against hope that he can arrive in France, at some point in the future, with the form it takes to win cycling’s top prize, a prize he is currently watching slip between his fingers.


Follow me on Twitter: @thebicyclerobot

Image: Fotoreporter Sirotti

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  1. jonathan

    I for one was shocked when Froome resigned with Sky after last year’s Vuelta. His current situation doesn’t surprise me at all.

  2. Wsquared

    I thought Froome’s dropping of Bradley on stage 11 was the equivalent of posting his resume on Monster.com. “Hey everybody, I’m really the best rider on this team and can leave Wiggen’s in my dust!”

    I believe Sky has Froome signed through next year, after which he will probably be off to another team. That makes Wiggen’s promise of support even less likely. Why help a guy who will soon be gone to win the Tour? Also, I believe his promise was to help him win “a future Tour.” If Froome leaves the team, all bets are off.

    The only way that Froome will be #1 next year is if the TdF is a climber’s paradise and Sky calculates they have no shot with Bradley as #1. And even then, I doubt Wiggen’s will just meekly accept relegation to #2 if he is the defending champ. He’s just reaching his prime.

    All things considered, this has the makings of a very enjoyable soap opera.

  3. randomactsofcycling

    If all keeps going the way it is, it might be Wiggins that is looking for a new team. I do not know if Wiggins is signed for Sky next year but Froome would be have to be mad to leave that team. If anything, this year’s Tour has proven that you cannot win the Tour without a fantastic supporting cast. Even Contador needs solid team support to win any GT.
    Sky’s performance, literally riding on the front everyday, has been damn near perfect. If I was Dave Brailsford, I would be doing everything I can to lock-in Chris Froome for as long as possible.
    Of course I would want to hold onto Wiggins too. It’s an embarrassment of riches.

  4. DanL

    I’m alright with a specialist worker stronger than his steady GC leader on his terrain, but if Froome is free to give 100% in the Sat ITT and he beats Wiggins then… then that could drive Chris nuts.

  5. peter lin

    I find Chris Froome’s loyalty admirable. Regardless of what happens in the future, Froome has proven to me he is this year’s TDF winner. Doesn’t matter if Wiggin wins, Froome is the strongest rider this year.

  6. DavidA

    You gotta want more than the next guy, give 110% and let the chips fall where they may…..LOL in the end it is about Money and making enough in your short PRO carreer to live on for as long as you can with out having to go back to the sugar beet or plastic factory….

  7. Alex TC

    Is Froome stronger than Wiggins? Yes. Should he win, or be given the chance to win by his team or Wiggins, in this year´s Tour? Not in my humble opinion!

    I mean, though he´s been displaying GT winning potential for some time, looking in retrospect he´s been less consistent than Wiggins in regards to his preparation and overall health. He´s still battling a bug or something, among other setbacks. In short, he might win big time cos he´s still young but he has to mature a bit whereas Wiggins is on top form in all aspects.

    If a DS like Brailsford is to build a season or a GT around a rider, being as he is makes total sense to pick Wiggins and have Froome as a super domestique, second card to play if something go wrong. That´s his only hope and he knows it. He´s being paid to know it and to do it. The rule of the road is to make sacrifices and he´s doing his, good for him.

    So, that was the plan from the very beginning for SKY. And IMHO though Froome has been showing stronger in this Tour, and I agree 100% he has, Wiggins hasn´t shown weakeness. He´s trained, focused, and ready. He´s in the clouds yes, maybe not charismatic as some would have liked, but he´s ffollowing the plan and doing his part with his legs.

    If Wiggins wins, he very much deserved it, again in my opinion. Froome may take second, also deservingly, for his professionalism. And I prefer not say loyalty because he really has no option here…

  8. Nick

    I’m leaning towards Alex TC’s comments. I don’t think we can really say “Froome was the strongest rider in the race,” because it’s a bit of an apples/oranges situation.

    Wiggins has all the pressures and commitments of the yellow jersey to attend to, which eats badly into recovery time and energy; Froome does not. Wiggins style of climbing is like his TT efforts, steady and strong while Froome’s style is more bursty and explosive. While we see Froome pulling on his leash, we don’t know if he’d be able to go fast long range, if he’d blow, or if he’d even be able to compete with the constant accelerations of a Contador (if given freedom to do so). Wiggins can also consistently destroy a TT; Froome has shown strength, but he’s not of the same caliber here as Wiggins.

    Saying Froome could have won the race is like saying there would have been a different winner if there were no time bonuses in a GT. We just don’t know that this is true because everybody would be racing differently if the situation was different. If it was Froome vs. Wiggins, maybe Froome would blow himself up, overextend himself in the hills and then have nothing for TT’s, etc. So yes, he’s strong as a skinny ox, but can he beat Wiggins? We don’t know.

  9. Diablo de Acero

    From a true test of man to man racing point of view, it would be nice to see Froome put put minutes into Wiggins in the mountains. Then see if Wiggins could actually fight his way back in the tt. Wiggins really should seriously consider giving Froome 50% of the earnings for this(maybe even cut the yellow jersey in half). It would have never happen without him.

  10. Lachlan

    Lemond-Hinault, Indurain-Delgado, Ulrich-Riis… This is well worn tour territory where a younger domestique shows incredible strength and potential.

    That said, if Froome is a fan of cycling as well as the talent he obviously is, he’ll know as well as any other, that for each example above there are many chief-domestiques who look like champions but once they leave to another team never quite make that final grade. It’s the same with sprinters top lead out men, some can go their own way and become winners, but many never do.

    I’ve found this tour pretty great to watch despite the static top end, but am definitely looking forward to a hopefully mountainous 2013 tour with Andy S, Contador and Froome all in good form and with clean passports 😉

  11. BigBodge

    Froome has had Bilharzia on and off x 2 years- this chronic parasite lives in the liver and Is extremely difficult to get rig of as eggs can lodge in bladder or bowel for years(depending on type) it causes anaemia and severe fatigue, not exactly what one wants as a GC contender no? Sky could never take the risk, Chris will need serial blood tests and possible treatment again and again. Sky have done exactly what they should, victory ensured in a very Anglo centric organised way with little left to chance. Not exciting but very successful

  12. velocodger

    I hope I’m not off-subject to talk about individual stages rather than the overall, but I don’t see why Froome couldn’t take a stage or 2 and still let Wiggo win the overall. There are no bonification seconds to gain by taking a stage, and if Bradley is really the better rider in the TT as most believe him to be, then he has nothing to fear. I wonder if the directeur sportif is denying Chris the UCI points and palmares just to make him easier to keep on the team at a lower pay scale..

  13. scaredskinnydog

    In my opinion by sticking to the game plan, doing the honorable thing and not attacking his captain, Froome’s stock has actually gone up. I’ll admit as someone who’s heros have always been climbers I’m looking forward to seeing Froome cut loose in the mountains (hello Vuelta!). His time will come soon enough and I don’t think Wiggins will forget Froome’s loyalty when their rolls are reversed.

  14. Adam

    I’m curious: If Froome were to go ahead and attack and pin it when he wanted to, how well he would hold up on the following stages. Bradley is more calculated then I think the press and we viewers give him credit for. What’s his lead right now? With the exception of Cadel’s untimely bout with the butt-bug, I am fairly certain Ol’Wiggo and Sir Brailsford had his splits planned out last November. This is not a surprise, this was the agenda. Maybe I’m just a Wiggo fanboy, even if that is/was the case I’m not certain that Froome has it to go on the attack like he had wanted and hold it to Paris.

  15. Alex TC

    Robert Millar has a very good piece running on VN (http://www.cyclingnews.com/blogs/robert-millar/robert-millar-tommy-guns-of-the-tour-de-france) right now that pretty much nails it for me. The excerpt bellow is spot on and speaks volumes about Froome´s behaviour at the race:

    “Wiggins’s emergence may look robotic to some people but it takes a serious amount of work to reach that level, not just from him but everyone round about him. The sheer concentration needed to always be in the front, always paying attention is awesome and that’s what impressed me the most: no mistakes, no bad moves. Admittedly Froome has thrown a couple of toy spanners into the machine but he signed up for position and no amount of arm waving and theatrical playing with the earpiece will change that. If anything he’ll just come across as stroppy. So a bit of decorum please, take note of how David Millar conducted himself after his stage win if you need some clues.”

    I couldn´t agree more…

  16. Big Mikey

    Froome is in a tough spot, for sure. It appears that he could have made a credible run at the TdF as team leader this year.

    There have been a lot of guys who have gone on to lead a team with this thought, and most of them fail at it.

    If he’s going to race the Vuelta, that race might be one for the ages if Contador comes ready to throw down. Could be the best GT in a lot of years.

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