The Secret Rider is a monthly column from an unnamed WorldTour rider. Its aim is to bring you inside the world of a professional cyclist to let you know what they talk about, what’s important to them, and what the word is on the street. Take it for what it is …
I’m back for another round and I really wanted to enjoy my off-season but couldn’t hold back after seeing the flurry of criticisms towards the nicest guy in the peloton – and many forget a living Grand Tours legend amongst us – Chris Froome.
I’m sure Froomey doesn’t give a hoot about what people are saying about him and personally I find it comical that people are spending so much time judging and analysing his bike fit and performance. But I couldn’t hold back from writing this after I saw disgraced Michael “Chicken” Rasmussen getting in his shot just so he could stay relevant.
For those who weren’t around, Rasmussen lost all credibility when he got booted out of the Tour de France while he was in yellow jersey by his own team, Rabobank. When one of the dodgiest teams in the peloton at the time kicks you out of the Tour when you’re poised to win it, you know you’ve f*&#ed up bad.
Say what you want about Bjarne Riis, but even he had standards. He wouldn’t touch Rasmussen and sign him on CSC – his proud Danish team – back in the day when Chicken was Denmark’s biggest up and comer.
Whenever Chicken has the audacity to show up at the Tour de France, the entire peloton shakes their collective heads wondering why he’s trying to stay relevant while always throwing stones. But years later after losing all his credibility and cake on his face, he still finds a social media mob who have short memories.
Alright, enough about The Chicken. Let’s give you a bit of insight about Froome.
Most of the guys in the peloton were riding junior gears when Froomey was at his peak and never got to see him dominate against the best riders in the world. You’ve heard me talk a lot about how these young guys are throwing away the script and doing amazing things on their bikes, but they’ve also thrown away the script when it comes to respecting some of the most experienced guys in the peloton. Even still, he’s universally liked in the bunch, just like he always was. The only one I ever saw Froome bump heads with was Vincenzo Nibali. Nibali was a brilliant rider but has always been a tough one to work out. He’s quite flamboyant with his money whenever given the chance – and he was certainly the Alpha male in the bunch, only really liked by the Italians. He’s the complete opposite of Froome, and we later saw how threatened he was by him, so it’s no wonder he didn’t take a liking to him.
So you’re probably asking, how did Froome’s bike set-up get so off when he has the support of WorldTour mechanics, the best equipment, and big-budget teams? Well, let me start by telling you that just because someone is a WorldTour mechanic doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes. They have an enormous job to do and good, competent professionals still get things wrong (especially when we’re talking about millimetres of error) meanwhile everyone seems to be up in arms about “How on Earth could they get his fit wrong??!!!” It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.
These happen to me and everyone else all the time, especially when changing teams. The old team always doesn’t give your old bike or measurements to the new team, or there’s a new bike fitter that doesn’t use the same methods or use the same tools as the last one. Any professional rider knows exactly what I’m talking about and the only people who see this as being unfathomable are the keyboard warriors.
On the rare occasion when I have my home training bike and race bike together and I put them side by side, there are all sorts of discrepancies. And these were done by the same bike fitter and mechanic! Even when I look at my race bike and my second and third race bike spare on top of the cars, they’re always different. Sometimes manufacturers give the team a new saddle that’s different because they want to sell more, or throw on a new handlebar or cockpit you weren’t aware of, or whatever. They change stuff on you all the time without you even knowing about it. You can see how easy it would be to get it wrong, even in a professional sport with top-level mechanics.
Whenever I come to a Grand Tour I’ll hop on my race bike and get niggles like a sore back or knee pain and have to play with my set-up for a few stages to get it right. Or sometimes you just ride through it and you come good after a few days. But I don’t think anyone seems to realise the severity of Froome’s injuries when he crashed in 2019. It’s damn amazing that he’s even riding again. He would have lost all sorts of mobility and would be far more sensitive to these set-up issues that anyone else would be. I can’t stress that enough.
Anyone who knows anything about Team Israel-Premier Tech knows the team is run like an absolute gongshow. Everyone knows it’s total chaos there. On one hand, good on Sylvan Adams for investing in the team – the sport depends on people like him – but he knew what he was getting into when he headhunted Froome. Again, his injuries were massive and at that stage of his career, the only thing Froome has to prove is that he can overcome his injury. I don’t think anyone would ever expect him to be winning Grand Tours again (but 3rd on Alpe d’Huez in the 2022 TdF was still better than most riders achieve in their careers). And still, Adams publicly disparages Froome.
Chris isn’t a symbol, he isn’t a PR tool, he’s supposed to be our leader at the Tour de France and he’s not even here, so no, I couldn’t say he’s value for money.–Sylvan Adams
People love to talk about Froome’s bike handling, or lack thereof. I don’t understand where this comes from, except for commentators who will make stuff up and talk about anything just to fill five hours of silence, but then it gets perpetuated. When you spend as many hours on a bike as we do, we all have silly crashes. I’ve seen Primož crash on a climb going 10 km/h for heaven’s sake! Nobody talks about him being a poor bike handler like they do with Froome. Nibali and Sagan were known as incredible bike handlers and they crashed all the time too. It seems to go unnoticed that Froome secured the yellow jersey in 2016 by outpacing everyone on a descent. If anything he had no fear and is one of the best descenders in the peloton.
At the end of the day people love talking shit about Froome but you know what? He still turns up to the races, still puts in the hours in training, keeps his body lean. From everything I gather, he genuinely still loves to race his bike and he’s got nothing to prove to anyone. He’s got the runs on the board after winning seven Grand Tours which nobody else in the current peloton has anywhere close to. Meanwhile we’ve got the most disgraced cyclist in history, The Chicken, throwing shit at him. Why can’t we let the guy finish out his career on his own terms and be happy for him and the thrilling sporting memories he’s contributed? There’s a human behind the athlete which people sometimes forget. Well, maybe except for Rasmussen. 😜
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