Rising from relative obscurity to Grand Tour stardom in the course of one season, Chris Froome is now regarded as one of the most successful stage racers in history. However an anti-doping violation at the 2017 Vuelta a España for double the permitted amount of the asthma medication salbutamol has brought his future, and his reputation, into question.
Froome’s trajectory in professional cycling wasn’t expedited by huge talent at an early age. Instead, his path was built on a foundation of consistency and diligence. Signing with Team Sky in 2010, he worked as a domestique for leader Bradley Wiggins for two seasons before his first Tour de France victory in 2013. He attributed his breakthrough performance — second at the 2011 Vuelta a España, while riding in support of Wiggins — to overcoming the parasitic disease bilharzia, which had affected him intermittently since 2009.
Born in Kenya to British parents, Froome attended school and university in South Africa. He began studying economics at the University of Johannesburg, but in 2007 withdrew after two years upon signing his first professional contract with South African outfit Konica-Minolta. In 2008 Froome made his first appearance at the Tour de France with wildcard team Barloworld-Bianchi. After competing under the Kenyan flag for the first two years of his professional career, he made the decision to represent Great Britain. He’s since been made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for his athletic achievements within cycling, which include four Tour de France victories, the Tour-Vuelta double in 2017 — though the Vuelta result is likely to be stripped — and bronze medals in the Olympic time trial in 2012 and 2016.
As a GC rider, Froome’s racing style is calculated and steady. He’s as comfortable ascending a mountain as he is on a time trial bike. His four Tour de France victories came after two years of disciplined domestique service. In 2013 he assumed leadership of Team Sky when he took GC victories at the Critérium International, the Tour of Oman, the Critérium du Dauphiné, the Tour de Romandie, and the Tour de France. He’s since won 12 Grand Tour stages, 19 stages at weeklong races, three wins at Critérium du Dauphiné, four Tour victories, and one win at the Vuelta, and he has his eyes set on a Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double in 2018.
How he will be remembered, however — and if he’ll be allowed to race at the 2018 Giro or Tour — remains to be seen.