The Secret Pro: Froome should stay home

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I’m sure you’ve seen the report that came out today. It accuses Sky of using powerful corticosteroids not just to get better, but get way better. Better than well, even. I’m sure it’s not over and more is to come. Smoke billows, but there’s still no visible fire. Should we place bets on who from Sky speaks out first as a named source?

I honestly don’t have much to add to the report, other than to say that it reinforces the view I’m going to lay out for you today.

Most of you have heard of this Chris Froome guy. He is a great rider with top results, but there’s this one result he’s having some trouble with. His Salbutamol levels were twice the allowed limit at the Vuelta. That’s a big no-no. I’d go as far as to say it’s the result he’s least proud of, and he had some real stinkers back in his Barloworld days.

I still can’t get past the fact that he knew he’d be tested that day in Spain. The leader of the race always gets tested. So he must have walked into that drug test trailer thinking he was going to be just fine. There’s so much speculation out there — what happened, what’s going to happen, and whether or not he’ll get banned — so I won’t dwell on that. I’d be guessing, just like all of you. Instead, let’s talk about what the pro peloton thinks.

I’m talking in generalities here, as I can’t speak for everyone. But it’s something we talk about. So here’s what I’m hearing.

Froome should stay home. It’s as simple as that. He can do his epic 200+km days, post them to Strava, but pinning on a race number is not okay. He should not have lined up at Ruta del Sol. He should not line up at Tirreno this week.

That’s what most of us think.

Obviously, he has the right to jump in with us. But every time he does the race becomes secondary. All the headlines are about him and his case and how F’ed up our sport is. Why do you think so many journalists suddenly decided to cover a small race in Spain? They were everywhere, like buzzards to a carcass.

Here’s what it comes down to for me, and a lot of others think the same: If Froome really cared about the sport as much as some fans care about him, he would leave that number off until he resolves the issue. It is a tough spot to be in for him, I get it. But Froomey likes the training more than most. So just do that, buddy.

Perhaps you say, “but he hasn’t been found guilty, so why can’t he race!?” As I said: For the sport. The sport we all love.

We’re always talking about how we need to unite and do what’s best for all riders. If the big guys on massive salaries don’t give up something for the good of the sport, how can you expect the smaller riders that are on minimum salaries and 1-year contracts, struggling to get by, to sacrifice anything for the greater good? You can’t. He could have set an example and put the sport ahead of his own interests. He didn’t.

Personally, sometimes I feel for him. If the results hadn’t been leaked (which they shouldn’t have, just like A samples shouldn’t be announced… Anyone still remember Cardoso?) he’d be racing and we would know nothing about it. But that’s a totally different scenario. That’s how due process should work, and I’d be fine with him racing under those circumstances because he wouldn’t be turning every race he goes to into a circus. That’s the part I don’t like.

At this point, one could say the same thing about Dave Brailsford. If his lifelong dream was to be the main act in a media circus, he’s achieved it.

If Froome gets a ban later on his results will still be stripped, of course. That would look bad. But at least it would be one quick punch in the cajones, instead of a dragged-out opera that makes your ears bleed. Speculation, speculation… How can you not love this sport?

Enough of Froome and Sky, though. I have a more positive proposition, though I can’t claim the idea as my own. I’ve heard my colleagues discussing how cool it would be if we had jersey numbers. Wouldn’t it be great if riders on each team could pick a jersey number just like on a normal sports team? You’d be able to spot us in those helicopter shots. Sure we would have to give up the phrase “pin on a number,” but I think we can live with that.

Commentators would just need a quick glimpse of the team and a number, because #1 on Movistar is A.Valverde and #23 on Sunweb is M.Jordan — wait, no that’s the Bulls, on Sunweb it’s N. Arndt. Or take Strade Bianche for example, where riders were wearing layers on layers, and were covered in mud, with numbers pinned on the jersey three lycras deep. No problem if the number is on every item of clothing.

Clothing brands could start selling jerseys with specific player numbers on them, maybe the riders could even see some cash if their jersey sells super well? Whoa, whoa whoa… baby steps. Don’t ask for money just yet.

Numbers could go on the bike paint jobs. Put a small one on the helmet, too. Why not even some bottles. Right now our pinned-on numbers are often placed over a sponsor logo or two, and that problem would also be solved.

This seems pretty easy. Why hasn’t it been done?

The classics will be such a blast this year, I can feel it. So much young talent, filling the gap left by Boonen and Cancellara. How about Wout van Aert?! Up there with the big guns a few weeks after finishing his cyclocross season. That’s crazy. If I raced cross I’d be taking long naps and drinking tall beers this time of year. I was happy for Michael Valgren, too. He’s a good chap. And Tiesj Benoot, what a ride at Strade. You have to love it when Tour contenders show the kind of early-season class that Romain Bardet rode with that day, too.

As racing gets underway, hopefully, we can forget about some of the scandals a bit. Bike fans will be even busier than usual now that also several women’s races will be shown live. I love that. The ladies are often more dynamic and unpredictable than our races. Don’t think so? Send me some more hate mail. The fireplace in my Monaco mansion needs some paper to get the fire going.

The first classics are behind us and proper racing has begun. There might be a rider or two in the WorldTour who hasn’t raced yet this year, but almost all of us have by now. I’ve actually done more race days than ever this time of the year. I really appreciate you guys coming over before the start to tell me how much you’ve enjoyed my previous pieces. It just adds to the motivation to write some more.

Kidding kidding, nobody ever seems to correctly guess who I am.

I’ll leave you with one last thought before I sign off. What happens if Froome does get a ban, even a short one, and faces Sky’s zero tolerance policy?

Over and out,

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