Team Sky issued a press release today that not only confirmed the plans of Tour de France quadruple-winner Chris Froome to show up in Jerusalem to start the 2018 Giro d’Italia, but that claims he is in it to win. Froome himself is quoted throughout the document saying convincing-sounding things about wanting a Giro title to his name, so he can hold all three titles at once, do something special at this point in his career, and close the loop with Italy, where it all began for him as a racing pro.
In the release Froome confirms his Tour de France ambitions too, to nobody’s surprise, but he adds a bit of info that makes it all a bit more sensible: that there is an extra week between the end of the Giro and the start of the Tour compared to past seasons. He then likens the process to his Tour-Vuelta experiences, which he successfully managed last year, though of course he and everyone else knows that there are severe differences as well. In his “Double” attempt, Froome will try to win the Tour against a pack of riders who are at their absolute peak form, while he alone (probably) carries a Giro in his legs. But Sky are clinical in their analysis of such things, so maybe they see a way forward regardless.
There are two ways for this to play out. One is where Froome does what we spent yesterday speculating about: pocketing the Israel cash, putting on a brief show at the Giro, and then shutting it down at the first sign of trouble to protect his Tour hopes. This would be disappointing but completely expected in all corners of the sport. His convincing words today might be nothing more than a response to the rampant speculation about his lack of true ambitions for the Giro, a PR move but little else.
Or, and I certainly wouldn’t put this past him, Froome is in fact determined to do something historic and risk it all in the process. There are a few factors in favor of this. One is that his window for winning five Tours doesn’t close in 2018, as far as we know, so it’s not like he is throwing away the chance of a lifetime. I mean, maybe he is, but I don’t know how much more we like his chances at one or the other of the next two Tours.
The other factor is his image. I’m sure Froome is well aware of the jabs people are prone to make at him when it comes to his likability. He’d be well within his rights not to care, but if he does, tackling the Giro-Tour Double would be the surest way to win over hard-headed people from the cycling community (hello!). I’d root for him, because there’s a good chance we might not see this again in our lifetimes. OK, my lifetime. OK, the next decade or so.
Froome should maybe have considered doing this a year or two ago, if the Double were a big ambition for him, but he still has the team to pull it off, and he’s still facing competition that undoubtedly seems dubious to him. Behind door #1 is Nairo Quintana and whatever else Movi throw his way, and Froome seems to be borderline dismissive of the Colombian’s chances of beating him at this point. Behind door #2 is Tom Dumoulin, who has one Giro to his name against a pretty Giro-ish field... impressive but not scary to Froome. And behind door #3 is a huge pile of talented climber guys who can’t crono their way out of a wet paper bag. Slight exaggeration and you can debate their relative merits, but exactly none of them come close to the Kenyenglishman. So why not?
I am talking myself into the idea that Froome will actually try to win the Giro, and our hearts next spring. Still holding on to reality setting in before they hit Campo Imperatore. But crazier (and boringer) things have happened than him launching himself at the maglia rosa. Fingers crossed...