After briefly feigning interest in a Giro-Vuelta schedule for 2015, Chris Froome has admitted what everyone knew: that his 2015 season will revolve around the Tour de France. Dog bites man.
It was never clear what the early mumblings were about. Was this a gambit to engage the legendary British tabloid media in a round of wild accusations, (unsubstantiated) rumors involving bags of cash and Giro dossards left in a paper bag in the bushes, and blurry photos of Spanish mistresses? Did Froome lose his nerve and give up the ghost? Perhaps.
Another theory is that British tabloid journalists posed as Giro and Vuelta legends Gibo Simoni and Roberto Heras, calling Froome on the phone to invite him personally to attend the races, and Froome, well-mannered Brit (via Jo-Burg) that he is, did not say no. Yet another theory is that British tabloid journalists posed as Froome, called a few media bigwigs (Sporza, L'Equipe, Cosmo Catalano) insisting that he'd be skipping the Tour, and the story got legs before Sky could do anything about it.
And my favorite theory of all is that British tabloid journalists posed as Froome, Dave Brailsford, Simoni, Heras, executives from ASO and RCS, representatives from various media outlets including CyclingWeekly, the Guardian, De Gentenaar, Il Messaggero, Cosmo Catalano, and AS.com, and staged a phony press conference where "Froome" announced his interest in the Giro and Vuelta. Meanwhile, all of the actual personages from this scheme were held drugged and captive in the dungeon below Rupert Murdoch's mansion in Florida, alongside Murdoch's ex-wives and the balls of various conservative politicians. The evidence for this last theory is that it makes so much sense I don't need any evidence, and besides, no members of the British tabloid media have denied the story.
There's another side to the story, which is a little hard to gauge, and that is... at what point do we declare 2015 the Year of the Showdown? About once a week it occurs to me that we could go into the Tour de France talking up the respective chances of former winner Froome, former winner Contador, defending champ Nibali, and ultimate challenger Quintana -- for starters. Others will enter the conversation, though to what degree remains to be seen. Nobody will be a strong favorite anytime soon -- Quintana's inexperience, Froome's reliance on time trials that aren't there, Nibali's lack of competition last year, all these factors will conspire against naming a big favorite. Perhaps Contador gets it by default, but his last Tour triumph was not too recent.
The beauty of all this is that, for once, if it holds, we will feel motivated to scrutinize both the pre-Tour results as well as every uphill meter of the route with renewed enthusiasm, not seen since I don't know when. The two British wins were simply matters of stomping the time trials. Last year's was over after stage 5. Prior to that we had some entertaining editions but not of this pedigree (except Bert). It's been a long time since we have seen such a massive staredown.
And I hope it happens, but remember all those Tours where Hinault, LeMond, Roche, Fignon and Delgado all faced off in their prime? Yeah, me neither. The cycling season has a way of changing people's plans, as we need look no further than the opening week of this year's Tour. It won't be til we're in the midst of the Great Showdown before we can officially declare it to be happening. Til then... fingers crossed.
Oh yeah, and the real reason Froome finally spoke up and dedicated himself to the Tour? Because what sane person of his stature would dream of missing out on this party?