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If Bradley Wiggins is awarded the coveted BBC Sports Personality of the Year award–and it would take a brave man to bet against it–then there is likely to be one name at the top of his list of acknowledgements: Chris Froome. Froome was instrumental in Wiggins’ recent success in the Tour de France and rode selflessly to help his Team Sky teammate become the first Briton to win the prestigious event, taking second place himself.
Just a week after the Tour ended, Wiggins and Froome were again in action, but this time at the London 2012 Olympic Games. The pair were unfortunately unsuccessful in their attempts to help another Team Sky rider, Mark Cavendish, to a gold in the grueling road race, but both picked up medals in the time trial event, Wiggins taking gold and Froome picking up bronze.
While Froome’s talents are anything but unknown, he has often gone under the radar, with compatriots Wiggins and Cavendish often in the limelight. The unprecedented success of the British cycling team at London 2012, including stellar performances from the likes of Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, may have created the perfect atmosphere for Froome to make the step up into cycling’s elite.
With both Cavendish and Wiggins taking some time off, the upcoming Vuelta a España, or Spanish Tour, will see Froome lead Team Sky’s charge for continued success. The mountainous tour, which begins on August 18, is highly suited to Froome’s strengths and has lead to many experts suggesting that the tour could be a two horse race, with Froome facing off against former champion Albert Contador.
Although Spaniard Contador will enjoy sizeable support from the home crowd, Froome will be confident of improving on his second place overall position at the 2011 Vuelta a España. Froome enjoys the expert tutelage of Team Sky general manager Dave Brailsford, who is also performance director for British Cycling, and is currently perhaps the most sought after coach in the cycling world. His philosophy of ‘the aggregation of marginal gains’ is the driving force behind the unparalleled success of the British team at both Beijing and London, making them the most successful track cycling team in modern history.
An impressive performance from Froome in this tour could also open the door for further success in the Tour de France. With the route of the 2013 Tour likely to be far more mountainous than the 2012 route, it would not be surprising if Team Sky threw their weight behind Froome, asking Wiggins to ride in more of a support role as Froome did in 2012. This of course is only speculation at this point, but a strong showing at the Vuelta a España will help push Team Sky’s hand.
It is important to remember that Froome is just 27 years of age, relatively young in cycling terms, and to win his first grand tour at this age would be a tremendous accolade for the Kenyan-born rider. While there is quite some time till the Vuelta a España finishes on September 9 in Madrid, things are looking good for Froome. He has all the attributes required to become one of the superstars of British, if not world cycling, and a victory here could be just what’s needed to propel him to the next level.