Froome chases Tour spot after agreeing Ineos exit
Chris Froome will leave Team Ineos for Israel Start-Up Nation at the end of the year, it has been confirmed. The end of one of the most successful partnerships in cycling history raises serious questions about the rider’s participation in next month’s Tour de France.
Froome (right) has been with Ineos since the team’s inception, as Team Sky, more than a decade ago. He has racked up seven grand tour titles, including four Tour crowns, making him one of the most successful grand tour riders.
But the 35-year-old had been strongly linked with a move away in recent months. Froome, who is in the final year of his contract, is desperate to win a record-equalling fifth Tour, and is adamant that he is physically capable of doing so following a career-threatening crash 12 months ago.
However, with Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas, the past two winners of the Tour, also on Ineos’s books, the British team have three potential leaders, and there was no
way Froome was going to be given sole leadership this year. Bernal is very much seen as the rising star.
That was one of the reasons Froome was rumoured to be considering a rare mid-season switch, with Israel understood to have offered him a three-year deal, matching his £5 million annual salary and guaranteeing him sole Tour leadership this year.
In the end, that did not happen. Any mid-season move would have needed the blessing of Sir Dave Brailsford, the Ineos team principal, and that was not forthcoming.
Froome has no choice, therefore, but to knuckle down and try to win his Tour place with Team Ineos next month.
Froome said in a team statement yesterday that winning a fifth title remained his focus for 2020. He is part of the Ineos climbing group heading to Tenerife for two weeks of altitude training tomorrow. His selection for the Tour, which starts in Nice on Aug 29, is by no means guaranteed, however, and for a variety of reasons. First, it remains to be seen whether all the recent manoeuvring has reopened trust issues between rider and team. Froome was initially in discussions with Ineos over an extension before he began talking to other teams. It is understood Ineos never tabled a counter-offer.
Second, will Ineos trust Froome not to put himself before the team in September, knowing how desperate he is to win that fifth title and that he is off at the end of the year?
Third, from a tactical point of view, there is the question of whether Ineos will want to go with a three-pronged approach. With eight-man teams, some feel that could be unwise.
Finally, there is the question of form. Froome has not raced in anger since his accident.
A final decision is still some way off, with the season only set to resume next month. But it adds to the intrigue.
“It has been a phenomenal decade with the team,” Froome said in the statement. “We have achieved so much together and I will always treasure the memories. I look forward to exciting new challenges as move into the next phase of my career, but in the meantime my focus is on winning a fifth Tour de France with Team Ineos.”
Brailsford added: “Chris has been with us from the start. He is a great champion and we have shared many memorable moments, but I do believe this is the right decision for the team and for Chris. He is understandably keen to have sole team leadership in the next chapter of his career, which is not something we are able to guarantee.”
Israel Start-Up Nation, co-owned by real-estate billionaire Sylvan Adams, have gone from being a Continental team to the WorldTour in just five years. They are likely to spend big over the winter to add more depth to their squad, and they will need to if Froome is to have any hope of winning further grand tours with them.
“We hope to make history together as Chris pursues further Tour de France and grand tour victories, achievements that would make a serious case for Chris to be considered the greatest cyclist of all time,” Adams said.