Stick a large, gilded, Neptune-inspired trident in Chris Froome, he’s done.
On stage five of the one-week Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, Chris Froome finished more than eight minutes behind winner Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott.) The four-time Tour de France winner came across the line in 73rd place, which doesn’t really bode well for a run at the Giro d’Italia in just seven weeks.
Inquiring minds want to know: what happened to the invincible Froome? Was he sick, was he faking, was he simply pulling off to the side of the road to take a few moments to review some important legal documents related to his case with the UCI tribunal and his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol?
We think the answer is number three: Puff Daddy is in deep trouble and is feeling the crushing psychological burden of the long, drawn out legal process and intense media scrutiny. Keep in mind the quote from Lance Armstrong on Froome’s alleged overuse of his asthma inhaler. “This is going to be complete mayhem and I know exactly what that fucking feels like. And it ain’t any fun.”
Froome is experiencing what having the fun pulverized every day feels like. Innocent, guilty, unintentionally stupid, it really doesn’t matter. The probability of a six to twelve month ban is high and the loss of his Vuelta a Espana title is a given, if the verdict goes against him. That’s what any sports physiologist would call a difficult pile of dark, negative, unproductive thoughts.
In our view, that shitstorm is beginning to weigh on him psychologically and it’s only going to get exponentially worse by the time he shows up for the Giro. Team Sky is already reeling from the continual fallout from Bradley Wiggins’ ethically gray use of TUE’s for the powerful corticosteroid triamcinolone. Critics want team manager David Brailsford to resign and everyone from race organizers to the president of the UCI wish Froome weren’t racing until his issue is resolved.
Fun is in extremely short supply.
Top athletes are masters of compartmentalization. They reduce the world to a narrow set of goals and slam the metal door shut to everything else. They’re in a bubble, in the zone, on a mental and emotional island where all that matters is their performance in the next race. It’s a necessary skill for any athlete at the very top of their sport. It’s a coping and survival mechanism.
For all his mental strength, Froome is not immune to the massive amounts of outside pressure from all over the world of cycling. Even Armstrong suffered and we all know where he ranked on the toughness meter.
Our prediction: should Froome even make it to the start of the Giro, he won’t finish on the podium. Before he turns a pedal in anger, he’ll be fried mentally and emotionally. That’s no way to win a grand tour.