Somewhere in a ancient church in Rome a middle aged man in a dark suit kneels at the alter. The only giveaway to the identity of this gentlemen is that he wears a pink tie.
He is lost in his own fervent supplications but if you could decipher the whispered Italian, the gist would be something like “Please oh Lord, bring Chris Froome to the Giro.”
Right now that seems like a distinct possibility although we’re seven months from the Giro d’Italia — and nine months from the Tour de France that Froome claims he might not ride.
Until ASO boss Christian Prudhomme unveiled the route of the 2015 Tour de France, it was a given that Froome would battle defending champion Vincenzo Nibali in France.
However, Prudhomme deliver a “untypical” route that has Froome pondering the unthinkable: skip France for Italy.
That kind of crazy talk happens in the off-season and then reality reasserts itself and the stars align again at Le Tour. That said, with a scant 14 kilometers of time trailing and another painful (for Froome) stage over the cobblestones, the South African is contemplating a shift in priority.
Opinion is slit on whether it’s lack of a long time trial or the dangers of the cobblestones that are fueling Froome’s Giro switch. The esteemed Sean Kelly pointed to the stones as the real issue.
“That’s the reason I would say I am really surprised that the Tour de France went down the road again. It was always going to be a risky one if you put cobbles in again. Froome was perhaps always going to say ‘I am not going to that f**king race.’”
Thus the Italian man in the dark suit praying for God to take an interest in delivering Froome to the Giro.
The cobblestone phobia underlines what might be Froome’s one significant weakness: bike handling. Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali nailed that statement shortly after his victory in France.
“Cycling isn’t only about watts, power and strength on the climbs. You’ve got to know how to ride your bike,” said Nibali. “Froome laid it down three times in two days. I don’t know if that’s normal, if it was just bad luck or if he doesn’t know how to ride his bike.”
So here’s the problem that Chris Froome and the Team Sky brain trust have to solve: the weather in Italy in May.
While Mother Nature throws out wind and rain and some chilled temperatures in July, that’s not as extreme as the potential conditions in Italy. Just ask any rider who survived the 2013 Giro, a race run in near apocalyptic conditions. That Giro was won by an exceptional bike handler named Vincenzo Nibali.
This last Giro again featured miserable and challenging conditions. Colombian Rigoberto Uran lost his maglia rosa on the treacherous (and controversial) descent off the Stelvio. Read the stories from that day and note how many times they use the words “horrendous” and “torrential.” It wasn’t fun for anybody except Quintana.
When Chris Froome is on form he’s not only one of the best against the clock but also against the mountain. That said, he’s a particularly frail, skeletal individual who doesn’t do well in difficult weather conditions. He shivers, falls and cracks.
It may well play out that Froome prefers to roll the dice on weather versus a Tour de France with cobbles and no real time trial. But he would do well to consult with the Sky director of meteorologist and then review the conditions in the last few Giros d’Italia.
Should he decide to skip the Tour in favor of the Giro, we suggest that church in Rome. Start praying now.