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Chris Froome's top 10 defining moments at Team Ineos

In-depth
9 Nov 2020
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After seven Grand Tour victories in 11 seasons, Chris Froome will depart Team Ineos for Israel Start-Up Nation

Words Joe Robinson

After more than a decade of success, Sunday evening saw Team Ineos and Chris Froome part ways as the 2020 Vuelta a Espana came to a conclusion in Madrid.

The seven-time Grand Tour champion rounded off 11 years of service by rolling in 98th on General Classification, collecting his trophy for winning the Vuelta nine years ago and, most significantly, rounding off his incredible comeback from near-career ending injury.

Froome's move to the Israel Start-Up Nation brings an end to one of the most dominant partnerships in cycling’s history with Froome taking seven Grand Tours in 11 seasons: four Tour de France victories, two Vuelta a Espana titles and a Giro d’Italia to round things off.

Below are the 10 defining moments of Chris Froome’s career at Team Sky/Ineos from his breakthrough at the 2011 Vuelta a Espana to his dominance as the greatest Grand Tour rider of his generation.

Chris Froome's top 10 defining moments at Team Ineos

Stage 17, 2011 Vuelta a Espana: The first glimpses of Grand Tour Froome

AG2R-La Mondiale and Garmin-Cervelo. Just two of the teams we now know Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford discussed the services of Froome with prior to the 2011 Vuelta a Espana.

Rolling in 85th overall at the Tour of Poland, it was deemed by Team Sky management that Froome was surplus to requirements after two seasons with the team. His results underwhelming, Brailsford was willing to offload the then 26-year-old.

His last hoorah with the team was going to be as a domestique in the service of Bradley Wiggins at the Vuelta a Espana. That was until Froome pulled out, arguably, the biggest performance of his career.

As Wiggins faltered on the Angliru, Froome was thrust into the limelight as team leader, albeit too late. By the time the team had switched its focus from Wiggins to Froome, the road had run and, despite a maiden stage win to Pena Cabarga, it was unexpected Spaniard Juan Jose Cobo who was crowned champion in Madrid.

Fast forward eight years, however, and Froome was retrospectively awarded the red jersey from this race after original victor Cobo found himself stripped of the title due a retrospective anti-doping violation.

Stage 11, 2012 Tour de France: Froome vs Wiggins

On the face of it, Britain’s first triumph at the Tour de France reads like the perfect story. Poster boy Bradley Wiggins takes yellow as loyal servant Chris Froome is rewarded with second on the final podium in Paris.

Except, it was far from rosy. In fact, those three weeks were riddled with Wiggins’s self-doubt, Froome’s belief he was the stronger rider and Brailsford’s failings to properly manage the situation – instead leaving it to sports director Sean Yates to sort out.

The manifestation of these issues was seen most overtly on Stage 11 of the race to La Toussuire. Froome attacked and Wiggins found himself dropped. Struggling, Wiggins then lost contact with rival Vincenzo Nibali and was fading fast. After being ordered to stop his push by Yates, Froome eventually sat up to rejoin Wiggins and guide him to the top, despite having the legs to go it alone.

That evening, Wiggins had packed his bag to leave the race, his confidence shattered while Froome found himself furious with his role of playing second-fiddle – yet again.

Ultimately, Yates was able to manage the situation sufficiently to ensure Wiggins was supported through to his yellow jersey victory but it was on the slopes to La Toussuire that we were first given a glimpse of Team Sky’s Froome-led future.

Stage 15, 2013 Tour de France: Rubber-stamped first yellow jersey on Ventoux

With Wiggins out of the way, Froome entered the 2013 Tour as outright leader of Team Sky and the standout favourite. In fact, after waltzing to comfortable victories at the Criterium International, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine, it felt like it was Froome’s to lose, and so it proved.

After winning the first summit finish of the race to Ax3-Domaines on Stage 8, he cruised into yellow. By Stage 15 to the mythical Mont Ventoux, his lead over the likes of Alberto Contador and Nairo Quintana was comfortable but you could tell he wanted to hammer the final nail into the coffin.

As the race reached the exposed roads towards the climb's summit, Froome launched one of the most unbelievable attacks of his career, shaking off all his rivals, as he rode to a stage victory on one of the Tour’s most iconic climbs and to a maiden Tour victory.

Stage 11, 2016 Tour de France: And now for something a little different…

By 2016, Chris Froome was a two-time Tour de France champion, having guided Team Sky to its third triumph in four years the season previous. This was arguably the British WorldTour team at the peak of its powers, untouchable in the hunt for yellow.

But it was also the point in which certain opinions towards the team and Froome were beginning to turn. Some began to, rightly or wrongly, question their methods while purists chastised the team’s race strategy. While effective, many found the team’s mountain trains and Tour dominance boring.

A fair assessment that I’d be inclined to agree with but let’s not forget that Froome’s methods of victory at the 2016 Tour were rather unconventional.

Firstly, there was Stage 8 to Bagneres-de-Luchon in which Froome took the attack his General Classification rivals on the climb’s descent and then came Stage 11 to Montpellier.

A day for the sprinters, crosswinds in the closing stages began to see splits in the field. Sensing an opportunity, Froome escaped with teammate Geraint Thomas and Tinkoff duo Peter Sagan and Maciej Bodnar in an impromptu breakaway.

Ultimately, Froome only earned a handful of seconds over his main GC rivals but it was proof that he and Team Sky were more than just that much-maligned metronomic mountain train.

Stage 12, 2016 Tour de France: Running up that hill

Who knew Chris Froome was such a big Kate Bush fan? We jest, we jest. Obviously, looking back at Froome running up the side of Mont Ventoux is funny now but when it happened, it was far from it.

High winds at the summit of Mont Ventoux had forced the Tour organisers into a last-minute route alteration, bringing the stage finish 7km down the climb to Chalet Reynard. Trouble was, that meant 7km worth of fans that had originally lined the climb to the weather station were now packed like sardines in the final few kilometres to Chalet Reynard.

The result was carnage when Froome, alongside Bauke Mollema and Richie Porte, found themselves ploughing into the back of a motorcycle that had been brought to a halt by the swarm of spectators in front of it.

While Porte and Mollema managed to remount their bikes and ride on, Froome found himself with a broken bike and no replacement. Rather than just wait for a new one, he decided to do one of the most memorable things ever witnessed in a bike race: he began to run up Mont Ventoux.

Luckily, Froome eventually got a bike, all three escaped without injury and the commissaries awarded the trio of Froome, Porte and Mollema the time gap on their GC rivals at the time of the incident.

December 2017: Chris Froome and the salbutamol saga

The biggest non-racing incident of Chris Froome’s career. On 13th December 2017, it was confirmed that the defending Tour and Vuelta a Espana champion had returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for asthma drug salbutamol.

Both the A and B urinary samples returned by Froome showed he had a salbutamol concentration in excess of the 1000–1200ng/mL theraputic threshold. Froome claimed that his asthma had worsened throughout the 2017 Vuelta a Espana and therefore doctors had increased his dosages, albeit under the threshold level.

Compensations for dehydration from WADA brought Froome’s salbutamol level from 2,000 ng/mL to 1,429ng/mL, still 229 ng/mL over the allowed limit which led to a drawn-out case of Froome and Team Sky attempting to prove his innocence.

All the while, fellow pro riders called for Froome to serve a suspension, but ultimately the UCI closed its case into Froome in July 2018 stating that: ‘Mr Froome's sample results do not constitute an AAF’, after he and his team had supplied sufficient evidence to prove this.

Ultimately, Froome’s salbutamol saga was closed without any charges brought but it will remain a part of the rider’s history for the remainder of his career.

Stage 14, 2018 Giro d’Italia: Monte Zoncolan

Languishing 12th on General Classification, it seemed as if Froome's chances of winning the Giro d’Italia were all but over by the time the race reached the insidiously steep gradients of the Monte Zoncolan.

His performances up to this point had been sub-par and the real fight was taking place between Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates and Team Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin ahead of him.

So when the peloton hit the Zoncolan and Froome struck out for the win, it was quite the surprise as it was the first glimpse of what we knew Froome was capable of throughout the whole race. It also saw Froome punch a man dressed up as an inflatable dinosaur, which was enjoyable.

I guess it proves the point that you should never count out a champion.

Stage 19, 2018 Giro d’Italia: Going for broke on the Colle delle Finestre

This was Chris Froome’s greatest act in a Team Sky jersey, bar none. By Stage 19 of the 2018 Giro, Simon Yates had the Giro practically sewn up. He was 28 seconds ahead of Tom Dumoulin and over three minutes ahead of Froome. He’d also romped to three stage wins and even survived the time-trial.

But Froome and Team Sky had a plan. It involved a kamikaze solo attack from Froome on the mighty Colle delle Finestre gravel mountain, 80km from the finish line and with two further mountains still to race.

It seemed destined to fail, somehow it worked and Froome went from being three minutes adrift at the start of the day to leading the Giro by 40 seconds with just one day left to race. ‘He did a Landis,’ was how Jumbo-Visma’s George Bennett reacted in his Kiwi twang when given the news.

With victory in Rome two days later, Froome managed to complete his collection of Grand Tours, and also at the time was the holder of all three Grand Tour titles, a feat that can only be applauded.

Stage 17, 2018 Tour de France: Passing the baton

So this turned out to be Chris Froome’s final Tour de France with Team Sky/Ineos.

Froome's last ever lap of France saw him finishing on the podium behind a teammate which bookends things nicely, considering what happened six years previous with Wiggins. Unlike 2012 however, Froome was clearly not the stronger rider this time, Thomas was and it showed as much on the road.

The Welshman won two summit finishes in that race and looked comfortable throughout while Froome was clearly carrying the efforts of three consecutive Grand Tour victories in his legs as he began to crack in the final week.

We say crack, he still somehow managed to roll into Paris third on General Classification which is testament to his ability... I guess.

Stage 4, 2019 Criterium du Dauphine: End of an era

It must play on Froome's mind a lot, it would mine. Why did I try to take my hands off the bars? 

This was a crash that could have done more than end a career. Froome, the team and the doctors are quite clear that Froome is lucky to still be alive after he hit a wall after losing control of his time-trial bike on the recon of Stage 4 of the 2019 Criterium du Dauphine.

It's quite incredible that Froome has even been able to return to racing at all when you read the long list of injuries that he sustained on that fateful day in France. So to even muse over his prospects as a potential Grand Tour winner again is simply remarkable.

Admittedly, a lot have completely written off Froome's chances of winning of a fifth Tour. Not least because he is now 35 years old but also because it has been three years since he won a yellow jersey.

But if there is any rider that could complete the comeback and win a record-equalling fifth Tour de France, it is probably Chris Froome.