Pressure creates diamonds. In sport, when the true legends are under stress, they stay and fight for their place, rather than move away to uncharted territories, where success is not guaranteed.
The prospect of Chris Froome seeking a mid-season transfer away from Team Ineos, where he has won seven grand tours, to have a clear leadership role at the Tour de France has sparked a wave of reaction.
The 35-year-old is set to share leadership duties with Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas, the last two winners, if the Tour does indeed start on August 29.
However, the idea that the Briton could depart Ineos to seal leadership status elsewhere indicates he believes he is back to his best after suffering career-threatening injuries during last year’s Criterium du Dauphine.
It also suggests he is ready to sacrifice loyalty and strength in his team for a shot at a historic fifth Tour de France title at a weaker outfit.
To have rivalry and competitiveness in your ranks is a positive problem for David Brailsford, especially when he has the last three Tour de France winners on his roster. Unfortunately, only one rider can wear the coveted yellow jersey on Champs-Élysées every year.
Since signing for then Team Sky in 2010, Froome has enjoyed the best years of his career, making him one of the most successful riders sport has ever seen.
Even in these uncertain times, Brailsford’s men look destined to seal another Tour such is their arsenal of talent. However, when it comes to leadership duties, he has three glittering options and all of them could prevail on their day.
Froome may boast the wealth of experience, but Bernal is the defending champion. He is the man. The future of the sport. At 23, the Colombian is viewed as the heir to Froome’s throne. And if a Tour was to take place tomorrow, he would be the clear favourite.
While youth, sharpness and fresh motivation may fall in Bernal’s corner, Froome has the experience and ambition of being a multiple tour winner.
It is hard to see Froome move anywhere else, especially after the success he has enjoyed with Brailsford. Hence, the reason to believe a transfer away from a winning machine has stemmed from his agent, as he eyes a contract renewal for his client beyond 2020.
Froome is 35. His best days are behind him and he isn’t getting any younger. But the chances of rival teams signing an ageing superstar – who reportedly earns five million euros per year – is enticing for any sponsor.
Team Movistar, Bahrain McLaren, ISN and NTT Pro Cycling could all do with a Tour de France contender and would be able to lure the Monaco resident with a similar salary, leadership status and fresh challenge.
For any 35-year-old, it is tempting to clinch one last marquee contract in a new environment and still be the main man, rather than pen a reduced deal and not be guaranteed any senior status.
However, if Froome really wants to lift that prestigious fifth crown, then leaving a team stacked with strength and experience, especially in the gruelling mountain stages, is a poor decision. To go elsewhere, he would not have the same level of support in those critical moments of the race.
Most fans would love to see Froome remain at Ineos, but if he opts for a switch, it will be because he feels that completing that legacy is best served elsewhere. When you are on the cusp of greatness, it is difficult to fault any athlete’s personal achievements.
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