Chris Boardman believes Chris Froome holds too much control over his schedule
Froome, who will be going for a fourth Yellow Jersey when the Tour starts in Dusseldorf on July 1, has kept a low profile this season, preferring training camps to road races. The last competitive action he had was at the Tour de Romandie in April, when he finished in a disappointing 33rd place and admitted to a “small” back injury.
While Froome will line up at the Criterium du Dauphine that starts on Sunday, Boardman, an Olympic gold medallist who briefly wore the Yellow Jersey on three occasions in the Nineties, says his preparation is “unusual and often doesn’t end well” and that he now holds too much sway over his schedule.
“It certainly won’t make the Team Sky management feel comfortable. There’s nothing there where they can say, ‘We’re on track’. He might be OK but you’re not going to find out until the day,” said Boardman, who was talking at the Marie Curie Etape Caledonia event in Pitlochry, Scotland.
“But he has got the status where he can do that. He can say, ‘No, what are you going to do? I’ll ride for someone else’.
“An individual who has that much clout can be a difficult thing because people stop telling you what you need to hear, or they’re not talking as loudly as they were.
“With success, you listen less and people talk more quietly, just when you need them to have a squabble with you.
Chris Froome will be going for a fourth Yellow Jersey when the Tour starts on July 1
Chris Froome was last in competitive action at the Tour de Romandie where he finished 33rd
“As a rule of thumb, I’ve always thought how somebody performs in the early season, even though they’re a long way away from the Tour, gives you an indication of where they’re at.
“It’s not often you see someone not performing early season and then do well, because you need that foundation.
“There are people who can buck that trend, so it’s not unfeasible [that he can win the Tour again this year], but maybe this is the year that people can get close to him.”
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The one big plus for Froome is that Boardman is not sure where the challenge will come from. He rates Giro d’Italia winner Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) as a potential threat, but he might be spent after his exertions in Italy. Ditto Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, who finished third to Froome in last year’s Tour.
“I was disappointed with Quintana. I wanted to see him perform on the biggest stage, which is the Tour,” said Boardman, who feels FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot is “too volatile”, BMC’s Richie Porte “too inconsistent”, and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde “too old” to mount a credible coup for Froome’s throne, which leaves Frenchman Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and Spaniard Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) as the ones Froome will have to keep an eye on.
“If you’ve made the Giro a priority, you’re trying to hold form for the best part of three months, which is nearly physically impossible.
Chris Froome and Team Sky meet Mini Team Sky Mon, July 25, 2016
Chris Froome and Team Sky are welcomed home by miniature versions of the riders after the outfit won their fourth Tour de France in the last five years
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Chris Froome and his fellow Team Sky members enjoyed a triumphant homecoming after the outfit were victorious in the Tour de France, posing with mini versions of the pro cyclists at their Osterly base
“It doesn’t mean Quintana can’t be a threat but there are no physical advantages to riding a flat-out Giro before the Tour.”
One man who Boardman believes could have upset the applecart is Geraint Thomas, except that he is set to be Froome’s Team Sky lieutenant at the Tour.
Thomas left the Giro before the 12th stage to prepare for the Tour after injuring himself in a bad crash on stage nine. And Boardman says Thomas’s hopes of stepping out of Froome’s shadow are fading fast, unless he decides to move teams.
“I was really disappointed for Geraint because he was handed an opportunity at the Giro, was in the form of his life, the best he’s ever going to be, and then it ended,” said Boardman.
“But there was no point in him finishing 10th, or sixth, or even third. He’s either first or second, or go and do the Tour.
“His problem on the Tour now is the team he’s in. It’s logical that, no matter how good he is, they’ll put him in a support role.
“Even if something drastic happens to Chris Froome, he’ll have to wait for him so he’ll slip down the standings.
“He won’t get joint-leader status on the Tour as he hasn’t earned it. But if he was on a team where there was nobody else, he could be one of the challengers.
“But that’s Geraint. He has enjoyed being part of a team, having a secure life, looking after the best bike rider on the planet at the moment. The cost is he doesn’t get to be top dog.
“He’s an incredibly valuable asset and a really nice guy but that doesn’t necessarily make him a winner.”
Hopeful participants for the 2018 Marie Curie Etape Caledonia are able to register their interest online at www.etapecaledonia.co.uk.