The Secret Pro: An insider’s view on Chris Froome’s crazy Giro attack

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The Giro d’Italia is over, and what a Giro it has been. Plenty of crazy days, steep mountains, and ups and downs for everyone.

Before we go on to heavier subjects, I’d like to pat myself on the back. Remember when I said you should keep an eye on Sam Oomen? He did a brilliant ride. He helped Tom Dumoulin finish second overall and got himself in the top-10 on GC. I like a happy bike racing story like that.

Now, to the controversy. Polemica is the Italian word for it.

Chris Froome won. I don’t think I need to rehash my opinion of him lining up at any race while his “paperwork” hasn’t yet been sorted. I don’t like it.

I would like to defend Froome on one thing, though. It’s a big thing, too. I want to defend his ride on Stage 19.

People called it Landis-esque, harkening back to that crazy ride Floyd put in at the 2006 Tour de France. Of course, he was popped shortly after, so the implication drawn by that comparison is pretty clear. But there are several key differences between Floyd’s ride and Froome’s ride. Fundamentally, I’m arguing that these differences are what tip Landis’ ride into unbelievable territory, and make Froome’s ride somewhat more believable.

First, Froome hadn’t lost 10 minutes, like Landis did, and was still in the game. Before Froome attacked he got his team to blow the race to pieces. Yates was already gone when Froome launched on his own with 80km to go. Dumoulin was in a group, but three of those five riders weren’t riding. This made Froome’s ride more mano-a-mano than Floyd’s.

Landis attacked alone on the first climb, Col des Saisies, and was still flying five — yes, FIVE — massive climbs later. He gained over three minutes on that first climb, while Óscar Pereiro’s team chased and Cadel Evans, Andreas Kloden, Carlos Sastre, and Denis Menchov were isolated.

Compare this to Froome, who gained a significant advantage on descents. Sure, he was being chased by five riders in the valley, but five riders doesn’t always mean five riders. I’d say he was chased by about 2.5 riders. The two kids (battling for the white jersey) were just sitting on, Reichenbach was pretty useless in the flats and was basically a parachute on the downhills, and Pinot was protecting his podium position. It was mainly Dumoulin who was making any headway.

None of the big guys had a teammate to help, so from 80km out it was pretty much all the GC guys riding for themselves. On the final climb, Froome didn’t extend his lead any further.

In my view, he gained most of his advantage through incredible descending and a poor chase behind. A small group working poorly really can be less efficient than a single rider doing his own thing.

Froome just had to worry about going fast. The rest — barring Dumoulin, who was all-in — were making calculations, considering the riders they were with in order to not lose a placing on GC or whatever.

Bike racing is strange sometimes. From the outside, more riders means faster. But a really bad team time trial squad will go slower than its strongest rider would have gone by himself. This used to happen to me all the time in my junior days. I quite often could have gone faster alone.

I honestly wonder what would have happened if it was just Dumoulin vs. Froome. If they hadn’t waited for Reichenbach and Pinot after the descents; if they hadn’t had Lopez and Carapaz just sitting on the back. It might have been quite a lot closer.

“Yes, but he was being chased by the ITT world champ” people scream while sharpening their pitchforks. Do you remember who got third at TT worlds? Froome did. And this time they were not on TT bikes, nor in TT skinsuits nor TT positions. Dumoulin was not expecting to be time trialing for 80km. Froome was. Dumoulin was not expecting to have to fuel for an 80km TT. Froome was. Froome probably got the gearing right and made sure he had the most aero set up. And aero counts.

At the end of the day, it’s up to you to believe or not. I still think Froome should have sat out the Giro. But bike racing is complicated, and that makes it almost impossible to know exactly how and why a single day went down the way it did.

Now, onto other subjects, which you’ll probably ignore and go straight to the comments section to talk about the Froome stuff. Let’s talk about weird bike racing sponsors.

During the Giro, I noticed, and hope you did as well, all those banners from a company called Named. Electric sprint arches, gigantic blow-up bottles by the roadsides etc, etc. What you might not have noticed are their “sick” Lambo and supermodels that they send to their expo tents. Molto Italiano.

The strangest thing is that they have been putting so much money into marketing that they seem to have forgotten to have their product available at shops. They sponsor several races (the Giro, Catalunya, San Remo and others) as well as several teams (Astana, Trek, Bahrain, UAE, Caja Rural and Vital Concept that I’ve noticed), but I still haven’t seen or heard about a shop carrying their products. You can’t find that info on their website, either. I’m not sure they exist.

One possible reason behind this is that if you actually take their supplements as the company suggests you’d probably overdose on every vitamin you’ve ever heard about and then some. I just took a gander at their website and even the basic multivitamin has taurine, while one of their recovery shakes has B vitamins, folic acid, magnesium, and zinc, all in doses you don’t need. Some gels have vitamin C (why?) and, yet again, magnesium, potassium, and so on. The ingredient list on a product called “Anabolic Mass” (which sounds… ummm… sketchy) is longer than the seventh chapter of the Bible.

What a weird company. Of course, it’s all over our weird sport. We seem to attract some real ringers in the sponsor department. For example: Some of you keep commenting on how I’ve got something against Nibali. I don’t, not really. You know who I actually have something against? The whole Bahrain team. Or, more specifically, where the money is coming from. The Prince is no angel. Sure, sure, none of us is perfect, but has anyone else here allegedly tortured people? I haven’t tortured anyone in ages. I’m totally out of practice, and not even sure I’d remember how.

Even more annoying is that the team has so much money they keep booking the hotel on top of Teide for the whole year and just cancelling a week out, so no one can plan a training camp up there. Talk about dirty plays.

On a totally different note, women’s cycling had a great spring. Several races were shown live (as promised) and they were fantastic. Now, since we’ve spent enough time ragging on the Giro, and its organizer RCS, for this Froome mess, let’s throw some shade on Tour de France organizer ASO.

The only WWT races not to be shown live on TV were organized by ASO — Liège, California, and Flèche. All with media rights managed by ASO. Coincidence? Of course not. ASO isn’t taking women’s racing seriously. They run the biggest races in the world on the men’s side, but they should not be allowed to call their races Women’s World Tour if they aren’t going to do what other much smaller (and much poorer) organizers can do. Come on. This is just silly. They need to step up and step up real hard.

While we’re at it, I want to stand at the exit of the Arenberg for a women’s Paris-Roubaix, another ASO event.

That’s it for now. Enjoy the post-Giro hangover, watch a Tour de France tune-up race or two. Maybe I’ll join the guys for a CyclingTips Podcast episode to preview the Tour. Just need to find one of those voice alteration devices…

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this post read that Froome “gained most of his advantage on descents.” While the combined time Froome gained on the descents of the Finestre and Sestriere was larger than his ultimate GC lead over Tom Dumoulin, it is inaccurate to state that it was “most of his advantage.” Several estimates put the amount of time Froome took over the Dumoulin chase group on those two descents as just over one minute, or about one-third of his total time gap, which was three minutes over Richard Carapaz, and 3:23 over Dumoulin. Froome won the Giro by 46 seconds.

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