‘Geraint Thomas proves that age isn’t a factor,’ says a resilient Chris Froome

Seven-time Grand Tour winner speaks exclusively with GCN about his love for cycling, what has gone wrong since his move to Israel-Premier Tech and his ambitions for the Tour de France in 2024

Clock11:00, Sunday 10th December 2023
Geraint Thomas (left) and Chris Froome (right) share a moment of laughter at the Santos Tour Down Under

© Velo Collection (TDW) / Getty Images

Geraint Thomas (left) and Chris Froome (right) share a moment of laughter at the Santos Tour Down Under

By the end of the 2024 Giro d’Italia, it will have been six years since Great Britain’s Chris Froome last won a race, unless something changes next spring. Yet, in the face of such a drought, the Israel-Premier Tech rider is as committed as ever to his occupation, undeterred by years of misfortune, under-performance and the criticism that has subsequently come his way.

Recent years have seen many ridicule the four-time Tour de France winner, labelling Froome a shadow of his former self. There are some who go as far as to demand his retirement, unsatisfied with the rider he has now become. But with the same determination that delivered him his former success, Froome brushes this vitriol aside in favour of optimism for what the sport still holds for him.

On the eve of the Tour de France Prudential Singapore Criterium, GCN sat down exclusively with Chris Froome to discuss his 17-year career to date. Froome took his time to reflect on a barren few years, whilst casting an eye forward to 2024 and the possibility of redemption at long last. Amongst the many insights offered by Froome’s candidness, one stood out at almost every opportunity - the 38-year-old is convinced that his age should not be a barrier to his return to the very top of the sport.

Whether it be musing about what has gone wrong since his departure from the Ineos Grenadiers set-up, or revealing his plans to better prepare for next year’s Tour de France, Froome’s answers reflected a man unencumbered by the burden of time. And why should he be? After all, his close friend, former teammate and a rider just one year his junior, Geraint Thomas, came within 14 seconds of becoming the Giro d’Italia’s oldest winner in May.

When asked if Thomas’ performance inspires him, Froome is clear: “100%.”

“With Geraint, there's one year separating us so to see him still up there fighting for Grand Tour victories, that basically confirms to me that age isn't necessarily a factor in this. It's more about the preparation and as it's always been, the readiness to race.”

Why, then, have Froome’s performances fallen far short of his best since 2019? The answer is obvious, at least on the surface: a career-threatening crash that almost killed him. But for the winner of all three Grand Tours, it is not just the physical toll of this crash that has held him back in the years since.

Changes in coaches, training and bike position prevent Froome from performing at Israel-Premier Tech

When Froome was announced as an Israel Start-Up Nation rider in the summer of 2020, the expectations of the Brit were lofty, from both rider and team alike. Then 35, Froome had been unable to agree terms on a fresh contract with Ineos, having been denied the prospect of sole leadership in Grand Tours. Unable to dislodge the spotlight that had now fallen on the shoulders of Egan Bernal, the Brit joined the Israeli set-up as the undisputed leader of the squad.

Despite Froome not having ridden a Grand Tour since 2018, Israel team boss Sylvan Adams was clear in his anticipation for what the move signalled for - Froome would be challenging for a fifth Tour de France victory to bring him alongside Jacques Anquetil and Miguel Indurain in the all-time standings.

However, Froome has only finished the Tour de France once in his three years with the team and has only clocked up one top-10 result along the way - third place on a stage of the Tour de France in 2022. The form that once saw him pulling off an audacious solo ambush to clinch the Giro d’Italia - stage 19 of the 2018 edition being the last time Froome crossed the finish line of a race first - has not been seen in a long time.

“I think it's a knock-on effect from the crash and the change in structure,” Froome says when asked explicitly what the difference is between his current self and that of his glory years. “I’ve also been training very differently to how I had previously, I’d like to change that and get back to my older methods of training.”

But it is not just the training and coaches that have changed since his crash in Ineos colours in 2019. There is also the matter of his position on the bike, which Froome admits has been wrong ever since his switch to a Factor bike in 2021. After missing out on the Tour de France squad earlier this summer, Froome says he went for a spin around the block on an old Pinarello bike, which immediately saw him feel more comfortable and relieved of the back pain he has suffered over the past couple of years.

Read more: 'I feel five years younger' – Chris Froome ready to take on 2024 with fresh motivation

“I found that actually, the two positions were quite different,” he reveals. “The current position that I had on the Factor and my previous position from Sky/Ineos were very different actually. For example, a difference of 3cm in the reach from the saddle to the handlebar. So I’m not just talking millimetres. Again, over 1.5cm change in saddle heights as well. So with things like that, it really does make a big difference.

“I think because of all my rehab work and everything, I hadn't picked up on it yet. I guess the bike felt different. But with doing all of the off-bike rehab work, I kind of expected that the bike would feel different.”

Some have disputed this line of reasoning, but Froome is the first to admit that a change in bike fit holds no guarantees for a return to form. At the very least, however, it has offered the 38-year-old a psychological fresh start for another winter spent trying to ready himself for a return to form.

The back pain has gone away now and I feel as if I'm pushing in a much more powerful position on the bike

“I'm feeling much better,” Froome says. “The back pain has gone away now and I feel as if I'm pushing in a much more powerful position on the bike. So that's given me a lot of motivation, knowing that in the last two years, I've been sitting in a position that hasn't been optimal for me.”

Where motivation leads, belief follows, though a fresh approach will be as important as a fresh position in 2024.

‘Not having ridden a Grand Tour this year, that’s a worry,’ admits Froome

With his non-selection to the Tour de France this season and Israel-Premier Tech’s relegation from the WorldTour last season - thereby removing their automatic right to race in the three-week races - Froome has not ridden a Grand Tour since the 2022 Vuelta a España. These races serve as important building blocks in a rider’s physiology, and Froome admitted there is some concern heading into 2024.

“Not having ridden a Grand Tour this year, that's a worry. But I think I'm just gonna have to ramp up the training miles and make sure I get those miles in the bank.”

Read more: Chris Froome hesitant to say today's top riders are much faster than those in the past

The thousands of hours spent training, however, are not worth all that much without the right racing schedule, and for Froome, his calendar has not aligned with his preparation of late. For a rider who has spent his career winning stage races, from the Tour de France to the Tour de Suisse, 2023 was peculiar in that Froome rode as many one-day races (six) as he did stage races, and that’s something he wants to adjust in 2024.

“All my training that I've done is geared towards stage racing and the endurance aspect of being able to recover and being able to deal with compound fatigue. I've never been a one-day specialist and I’ve never actually won a one-day race,” he notes. “I'd certainly like to do a lot less one-day racing next year, and that was something that didn't really sit too well with me this year.

“I think [the] race programme next year will be critical to making sure I get a better run-up to the Tour next year. A lot more stage racing makes more sense to me.”

Froome full of gratitude and love for cycling, no matter the result

A new position, a new (or old) training regime and a more favourable racing schedule aside, Froome is content with his achievements in the sport and knows that irrespective of his form next season, the love for racing will stay as true as it has done since he first came to Europe 17 years ago.

Never the same rider since his crash, Froome has still devoted himself to the sport in the same way he did at his peak. He still holds his own in the peloton and takes every opportunity to offer his mentorship to the young riders who are earning their stripes with Israel-Premier Tech.

Unlike the many great champions who decide to leave the sport once their grip on the top has slipped, Froome has continued to race, a desire born out of the same love for the sport that millions around the world share.

Read more: Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and Peter Sagan defeated in rickshaw relay

“I think quite a few people have asked me, ‘you're obviously used to winning Grand Tours back to back and are you not afraid that you’re not living up to the image of the former rider?’ But not at all, I love racing,” he insists. “Of course, I loved it more when I was winning and I enjoyed it more when I was winning.

“But that’s not to say that I don't still enjoy it now. It's the lifestyle for me. I love the training and the dedication that it takes. Okay, there are a lot of sacrifices that come with it. But I realise it's such a short window of our lives and I feel extremely grateful, especially after the big crash that I had, to still be able to do the job that I love - whether that is winning or not winning.”

My ambition for 2024 is to get back to the Tour de France in fighting shape. Just to be up there when it gets grippy, when it gets selective, that for me would be amazing

This answer may not please his paymasters - Sylvan Adams has regularly been critical of Froome's disappointing performances - but equally, one could argue it was a risk the team took when they offered a lengthy and generous contract to a 35-year-old coming off the back of a traumatic crash.

Froome has not challenged for the yellow jersey since his move to Israel-Premier Tech, nor has he come close to winning a race bar one magical day on Alpe d’Huez. However, now 38 and still hoping to deliver on what he was signed for, Froome has two years left on his contract and intends to see them through.

In a relaxed mood ahead of the exhibition race in Singapore, the post-season excursion allows the Brit some time to look to the future, as well as the past. He reveals his plans to start a cycling project in East Africa - which he later coins the Chris Froome Cycling Academy - but also remain adamant that his one dream for 2024 would be to return “to the Tour de France in fighting shape.”

Read more: Chris Froome plans cycling academy in Kenya but first wants to 'finish off' career with Tour de France fireworks

Whether or not that does happen, though, Froome can be content with a career well spent. Regardless of whether he ever raises his hands in the air again, Froome will remain a seven-time Grand Tour winner, the most dominant rider of his generation, and a man still as in love with the sport now as he was as a youngster. Age will catch up with Froome someday, that much is a given, but for now, the man hailing from Nairobi, Kenya is living the dream.

“I think I've been really incredibly fortunate to have had the experiences and the career that I've had and the opportunities that I've had. And those opportunities continue, even post-crash, being able to just race my bike and still be doing what I love, despite the injuries I had, I think this is really the dream for me.”

Related Content

Link to Chris Froome hesitant to say today's top riders are much faster than those in the past
Chris Froome was part of the Legends team at the Tour de France Prudential Singapore Criterium, and pleased the spectators with an early move into the breakaway

Chris Froome hesitant to say today's top riders are much faster than those in the past

In a GCN exclusive, the four-time Tour de France champion compares Jumbo-Visma to Team Sky and marvels at the collective level of today's peloton

Link to Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and Peter Sagan defeated in rickshaw relay
Mark Cavendish enjoys the ride as Chris Froome rides the rickshaw relay

Mark Cavendish, Chris Froome and Peter Sagan defeated in rickshaw relay

Jovial challenge welcomes in the Tour de France Prudential Singapore Criterium weekend, as Tadej Pogačar, Jasper Philipsen and Giulio Ciccone emerge on top

Link to Chris Froome rides Paul Smith designed Factor Ostro VAM at Singapore Criterium
Chris Froome with his Paul Smith Factor Ostro VAM

Chris Froome rides Paul Smith designed Factor Ostro VAM at Singapore Criterium

Collaboration between British fashion designer and bike brand to be launched in November

Link to 'I feel five years younger' – Chris Froome ready to take on 2024 with fresh motivation
Chris Froome at the Czech Tour earlier in 2023

'I feel five years younger' – Chris Froome ready to take on 2024 with fresh motivation

Seven-time Grand Tour winner on returning to racing, Tour de France ambitions, and working with Factor

Subscribe to the GCN Newsletter

Get the latest, most entertaining and best informed news, reviews, challenges, insights, analysis, competitions and offers - straight to your inbox