Chris Froome Wins the Vuelta a España but Does He Get the Plaudits He Deserves?
A review of yesterday morning’s sports pages revealed turmoil at Crystal Palace (Frank De Boer subsequently became the Premier League’s first managerial casualty of the season after only 77 days in charge), continuing debate over Sadio Mane’s red card and analysis of a convincing Series win for the English cricket team over the West Indies, leading many to consider them favourites ahead of this winter’s Ashes Tour of Australia.
However, if you looked hard enough you could also read about the stunning and unprecedented success of Chris Froome who won his fifth Grand Tour, by adding the Vuelta a España to his four Tour de France titles, the last of which was won only 27 days before the start of the Vuelta.
It is possible that Froome will be getting used to being overlooked when it comes to sporting accolades with his third Tour de France win in four years not being considered good enough even for a nomination for the 2016 BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, normally a good barometer of the nation’s sporting heroes.
Some attribute this to the fact Froome was born in Kenya, lives in Monaco and spends little time in the UK. Others say he is collateral damage resulting from allegations concerning Team Sky’s conduct in the recent past.
But where should Froome’s sporting achievements rank?
There is no doubt that to win a Grand Tour you need to be supremely fit. Competitors are required to spend four to five hours in the saddle over thousands of kilometres during the course of three weeks with only a couple of rest days. When you consider the mountains they face along the way, some including a 24 degree incline, it is clear why only the very fittest can compete.
Add to this the intricacies of ensuring you have the right team riders and support, the varied nature of the races as a whole that include time trials, team time trials, mountain stages and dangerous all out sprints which can often result in broken bones and serious injury and you get a picture why they are so hard to win.
Having won four Tour de France it was always going to be an uphill struggle to add the Vuelta, a race at which Froome had finished runner-up three times previously. In order to win both the Tour de France and the Vuelta, Froome had to completely change his training regime so that he peaked later in the season than he would normally. This meant he arrived at Le Tour, in his own words, “under cooked” and got stronger as the race went on.
At the Vuelta he faced a strong challenge from Vincenzo Nibali, who won the Tour de France when Froome withdrew injured in 2014, and who was considered fresher having not raced in the Tour at all this year. Indeed when you consider Froome had been racing in his saddle for 42 out of the 72 days between the start of the Tour and finish of the Vuelta his victory appears all the more impressive.
Froome is also the only rider to have won the Vuelta after having won the Tour de France. Two riders have previously won both races in the same year, Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault, both considered amongst the best ever, but only when the Tour, considered by many the Blue Ribband event in road racing, was held after the Vuelta.
No rider has ever won all three Grand Tours in the same year and Froome could yet complete a “Tiger-Slam” by holding all three titles at the same time. However, this would appear unlikely as Froome himself has confirmed he will instead be concentrating on winning a record equalling fifth Tour de France to join the Pantheon of 5 times winners that includes Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain, Anquetil and Hinault.
Perhaps then he will start to receive the accolades his achievements already deserve.