Wiggin’s Mountain Man: Chris Froome

EXCLUSVE: Ahead of a crucial day today, VeloUK talks to Team Sky’s Chris Froome about his first Vuelta so far


Chris Froome Interview by Larry Hickmott

In only his fourth season as a professional, Chris Froome is competing for Team Sky in a race he says he’s looked forward to doing for a while, the Tour of Spain. On stage 3 on Monday, whilst a break of four lead the race with little chance of being caught from behind, the GC favourites were eyeing each other up on the final climb and at the side of British GC hopeful Bradley Wiggins, was his faithful lieutenant Chris Froome.

Chris, who grew up racing in Africa, has already ridden the Tour of Italy and the Tour de France and in the Vuelta, his job is to help Sky leader, Bradley Wiggins in the mountains.

Recalling stage 3 and his job there, Chris explained, “My job today was to help Brad stay in contention without making any big efforts ahead of stage 4 (Tuesday).  We were all taking it in turns to get bottles today (Monday) and the aim was to look after Brad and also CJ (Sutton) in case it came down to a sprint.”

“It did get a bit grippy up that last climb though so it got a little hard for the sprinters to hang in there.”

That climb, says Chris, was no huge mountain but how tough such climbs are always depends on how fast the peloton rides up it. With the break up the road still, the speed up that final climb  wasn’t slow but everything was under control says Chris.

“We had Brad in the perfect position on the climb, rode it at a good steady pace and kept him out of trouble.”

After a difficult stage 1 where Chris lead Team Sky, including its team leader Bradley Wiggins, across the line, the team bounced back on stage 2 with CJ Sutton, son of Gary Sutton, winning and raising the morale of the squad ahead of the climbing stages. It’s these stages that are crucial to the team if Wiggins is to have a shot at the overall.

“There are quite a few climbing days ahead for Brad” says Chris “and he needs as many guys with him as possible when the selection is made. I’d hope I’ll be one of those with him when it gets down to the business end of the bike race.”

Chris, who has yet to resign with Team Sky, does admit that not having a contract yet for 2012 can play on a riders mind. “Sure, not having a contract yet does weigh heavily on your mind but the way I look at it, I have a job to do and the better I do my job, the better the chance I’ll get resigned or get a better offer.”

“I prefer to put the whole contract situation out of my head and do the job I’m asked to do here.”

Based on his performances so far, Chris does appear to be riding well for his team in temperatures not unlike those where he grew up in Kenya and South Africa. Asked has it helped in the Vuelta being from a country with a hot climate, Chris replied, “It’s more about how people deal with the heat.”

“Throughout the day, you are continually pouring water over your head, getting ice packs down your back and staying hydrated (drinking). I think a lot of people maybe get distracted by the race and forget to do it and those are the guys who pay the price later. Growing up in Africa does help me in that sense.”

June in Britain and Chris Froome was racing the British Road Race Championships. He he goes on the attack early in the race chased by Jon Mould.

Chris explained that, at a guess, he went through 20-25 bottles alone on stage 3. Half of them over his head and the other half down his throat in an effort to keep the body cool. He added that when it’s so hot, riders generally don’t feel like eating so it’s more about keeping the liquids going in along with the odd gel for the sugar and not forgetting the liquids for the electrolytes.

On stages with lots of climbing where he’ll have a bottom sprocket at the back of 25 or 27 and on the really mountainous stages, like today, he’ll have a compact at the front, Chris admits that saving his energy early on is important.

“It’s about staying comfortable and not making any big efforts unless you really need to. You only have so many coins in your pocket and everytime you’re moving up or doing something, you’re paying for it. At the end of the day, it’s all about saving, saving, saving until you need to step on it and go.”

“Today is going to be a pretty crucial stage with a 25 k climb up to the finish at Sierra Nevada and another 25 k climb during the 170k. I think there’ll be some big gaps opening up on stage 4 but that said, it is still early in the race and those who attack there, will pay for it later.”

Finally, it was the crashes in the first week or so that made the headlines in the Tour de France, and ultimately cost Bradley Wiggins a chance at the overall. The Tour of Spain though says Chris, seems to reflect the Spanish lifestyle and is quite relaxed.

“It was a very pleasant surprise when I came to this race. Normally the start of a Grand Tour is pretty chaotic especially on the flatter stages but here it seems quite relaxed. The break goes quite early for example and the race gets faster and faster gradually. Then, in the finale, yes, it has been quite nerve wracking”.

With stage 4 finishing up a 25k climb, no doubt there will be plenty of nervy moments for Chris and others as they approach the climb but it is when the road climbs up that Chris is hoping to be there for Wiggins, to keep him safe and out of the wind and perhaps, today, we’ll see as will Brad, whether the 2011 Vuelta is a race he can win.

Good luck to Chris (and the team)  and thanks for talking to VeloUK.

Tags: , , ,