It can be assumed that tonight, permitting that no extreme crashes appear or race ending injuries occur, that Chris Froome, the fan favourite rider extraordinaire, will be riding off with another Criterium du Dauphine title under his belt to add to the already impressive palmarès amassed. On the lips of many riders, commentators and journalists alike prior to the commencement of the race one week ago, there were three favourites who, essentially, wiped out the hopes of any other general classification hopefuls in the peloton: Alberto Contador, Richie Porte and Froome. Though the three presented a seductive entrée to the main meal of the season, the Tour de France, Froome in the eyes of many was the underlying favourite due to the might of legs that have carved paths around the world and eventually leading him to Team Sky. To the victor goes the spoils.
Those spoils don’t seem to be slowing down in the near future as it becomes more obvious that Froome is a rider that could go on to win another 10 TDF’s if he set his mind to it. While the once-in-a-generation grand tour rider appeal of Vincenzo Niballi isn’t synonymous with the efforts of the 33 year old Brit, he remains a rider with the ability to capture audiences young and old until race end. He hasn’t won all three grand tours, and probably never will, but theres an undeniable lure that Froome brings to each start line. Perhaps the charisma of riding for as suave an outlet as Team Sky is responsible for the appeal significant different from Nibali.
Like the fairytale Hawthorn is to the AFL, Froome keeps winning. Despite a disappointing Tour de France defence in 2014 which resulted in race abandonment by just stage five, since faltering on those cobbles and leaving Sky with out a defender in deplorable weather conditions, Froome has ended each race he’s started with a satisfactory placing, leaving many cycle fans left scratching their heads as to ‘What’s next?’ or ‘What can’t he do?’
It is a valid argument. Just what can’t Chris Froome do? The cynical fan will explain that he ‘can’t ride in rain’ because of the disappointing track record Team Sky hold in rainy race conditions, but even when the rain sets in he weathers the storm, neck down and legs stomping on peddles. He enters the race to win and won’t stop until absolutely spent, or until injured beyond recovery. Add the likes of Contador, Niballi and former right hand man Richie Porte into the mix and there’s the four greatest riders of a generation in the one race. That’s where it becomes tricky and the Gods come out to play.
So the eyes of the world set off for July. A Dauphine under his belt and morale boost for the team. He’s not untouchable despite what many fans and members of the press believe. But he’s at the top, and it’s a lot easier to get to the top than stay at the top. Froome’s been at the top since 2013. Who’s to say this July is going to be anything different?