Anyway, down the road, the future of supreme bike road racing may belong to another Britisher, Adam Yates. The guy won the white jersey – defined as the best placed finisher under the age of 26 - in the 2016 TDF. He placed 4th when all was said and done.
But the future is now, and if the 2016 Tour de France was any indication - with Froome front and centre in debate and in anticipation of success - or failure – in this 2017 edition, at least 100 channels will air it to at least 190 countries to be watched by 3 BILLION.
(By the way, in stage 1 of this 2017 Tour, Chris came 6th, and he has happily announced he's signed on for 3 more years with Team Sky.)
Despite Chris's latest results and news, undoubtedly these TDF numbers would be higher but the stench of Lance Armstrong’s chicanery looms over every facet of the bicycling endurance race and Froome’s Team Sky and British Cycling being investigated by UK Anti-Doping sure hasn’t helped...
Nevertheless, between 10 to 12 million spectators, if not scaring the daylights out of the riders by jumping onto the route waving their arms wildly, will, for sure, loom over the route and press against the edges.
But is La Grande Boucle as edgy, unpredictable, and pressure packed as riders and fans tout? Sure crashes erupt helter skelter, but a glance at previous winners shows, often, repeat, consecutive wins. If it was as iffy and chancy as proponents aver and was truly competitive, would not more individuals have won - with individual cycling dynasties a rarity rather than commonplace?
Of course many will retort that cream always rises to the top and that past greats like Indurain, Hinault, Merckx, LeMond, and Froome rose to their natural, expected, excellent level, predictability be damned.
For sure, there’s pressure to piss. Sitting and straining for hours per day, with only 2 days rest over the 21 stages, means riders have to “go” and like “now.” Some pull over en masse to do the deed; others fiddle with their shorts to do it whilst upon the bike! Amazing, that.
Even as amazing is that it is illegal to urinate in a stream or river. Stick to the tree and try to let the riders behind you know that, so they don’t shamelessly pass you by.
Most amazing still, Mark Cavendish admits to pissing himself if the weather is chilly.
For sure, while youngsters adulate these cycling cyborgs, they should know life as a professional bicycle road racer isn’t all peaches and cream. For starters, the starting pay of £35,000 or $45,150 USD - isn’t that great. And life on the road, racing and travelling to races, sounds somewhat monotonous and definitely irksome. You’re not with loving family and best friends, you’re with teammates - some likeable, some loathsome.
But The Tour de France isn’t all agony. Sure this year’s edition promises a climb as steep as sin to La Planche des Belles Filles, but when not huffing and puffing upwards, the peloton will find its members either daydreaming or casually chatting to fellow rivals, talking about Paris, or talking about future events on their racing calendars.
Alas, however, for 3 weeks the casual fan tuning in will, if the TV is mute, be hard pressed to recognize a particular rider, any rider, save for their faves in winning jerseys. Basically, helmets have removed any chance of easy facial recognition. Indeed, apart from stage-winning jersey wearers, the only standout from the crowd might be Alex Howes – because he wears funky sunglasses.
Howes et al will begin the Great Loop in Düsseldorf, Germany, with a did-you-see-that-blur–whizz-by 14 kilometer individual time trial.
But let’s put the brakes, right now, on one trend, shall we? We know the cyclists in the 2017 Tour de France, to a man, will be in awesome shape. But to the casual ballsy beau mansplaying at home, don’t imitate the professionals and don Lycra when you get off the couch to pedal and peddle your wears and wares about town. You’re chubby in all the wrong places and you’re contributing to blight and visual pollution. The Lycra look, for you, is not good. Scrap the spandex and stop MAMIL’s (Middle-Aged Men in Lycra.)
Where were we?
Yes, Froome, the favorite, going for his 4th win in 5 years. This Nairobi born road racer certainly thrives in the suffering of training and racing. He might even admit, to himself at least, that he enjoys it. After all, roads in Kenya, whilst adequate for marathoners, were hardly conducive to a kid dreaming of elite cycling. Conditions there were, to be generous, Spartan – But Chris had no complaints...
To copy the feel of alpine climbing where such terrain didn’t exist Chris would pull his breaks to create the necessary struggle and resistance...He admits in his early days (around 2006 by this point) his technique was terrible “crash Froome” - but he had “an engine” - an engine later stricken with Bilharzia, a parasitic disease harmful to red blood cells – the means to transport oxygen.
He also admits his first TDF back in 2008 was a huge learning experience with the speed seemingly 10 kilometers per hour faster than any race he had been in previously. He was 1 of 4 riders for his 9-man team, to finish. In the 2012 Tour de France he had to take a back seat to teammate Bradley Wiggins, causing some discomfort for himself, Wiggins, and the team. In the 2014 race he pranged up his left knee, left wrist...right thigh, leaving the contest prematurely. He had to fight suspicions of doping...
And just this year, in May, he was deliberately knocked off his bike in a hit and run: the bike was mashed, but Chris was unhurt. (The road rage driver remains at large.)
But, and this is a big but, until finishing 4th in June’s Critérium du Dauphiné, he hadn’t raced competitively since April, and his running of his own schedule has undoubtedly caused Team Sky some consternation.
Thus, come this July, the world will watch and wonder again if Chris will be the best bet overall in climbing, descending, time-trialing, and cross wind cycling – blessed with a, oh my, peak oxygen uptake twice that of normal humans - enabling him to hit the breathtaking heights of yet another Tour de France win.