Froome is now one behind the other four riders — Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain — who all won the Tour five times. Froome is just 32 years old, and it looks likely that he’ll be joining that club in the next year or two — and perhaps become the first rider to win six Tours.
What makes Froome so good? He’s one of the most naturally talented riders. He trains hard. He lost 20 pounds and transformed his body. His Sky team has the biggest budget and can afford to bring the deepest squad to the Tour. But besides being No. 1 at pedalling bikes fast, Froome has also matured, both as a rider and as a team leader, and that’s made some difference, so his boss, Sir Dave Brailsford, told Business Insider. According to Brailsford, it’s in moments of chaos that Froome shines, leading his troops coolly under pressure.
“It’s been fun to watch over time,” Brailsford said. “He knows when he needs to step in and make a decision, and he knows when others can make a decision. He’s got that very well tuned in now, and that gives him the confidence, so he’s not on edge all the time. He’s focused but not intense. The people who are around a leader who is intense, they agitate, and it’s not a pleasant experience.”
Here are six reasons Froome is the world’s best stage racer, according to his boss:
Brailsford talked about how Froome handles stress, as on stage two of the Tour when Froome crashed.
'He knows there are highs and lows, but the way to manage chaos optimally -- because it is quite chaotic in a crash like that -- is to stay as calm as possible,' Brailsford said. 'If he's calm, everybody else is calm. When they all go down like that, you know, the pack -- they stall, they all turn and they look at the wolf, and whatever he does next, they all go with him. If he's calm and he says, 'All right, guys -- let's go,' boom, they all go again. If he's panicking or kicking off, then they all do the same, which creates even more agitation, more chaos.'
Froome began this Tour with a whopping total of zero victories this season. He was still the favourite -- he's just that good -- but some people were speculating that he might get beat. But none of that fazed Froome, according to Brailsford.
'As he gets more experience and becomes more successful, he's got more confidence in his ability to gain the form at the right time, to peak at the right time,' Brailsford said. He no longer maybe needs confirmation.
'When he started out, he had to develop leadership skills and he needed the confirmation of winning. And that's one of the insights for me -- as he's getting older, his awareness of how to be a leader is fantastic. And he's very grateful, very generous with his support.'
Winners of the Tour don't win outrageous amounts of money, at least when compared to other sports. Froome won 500,000 euros on Sunday, or roughly $US580,000, and tradition dictates he share that money evenly with his team. Most of his earnings come in the form of his $US5 million salary paid by Team Sky. But when it comes to winning, according to Brailsford, it's not really about the extrinsic rewards.
'I think the one thing about Chris is he's highly intrinsically driven. He's very, very driven. For all the right reasons actually,' Brailsford said. 'It's not about the reward side of it -- it's about the achievement side of it. So he's up for it, he's got hunger, he wants it. He's got the talent obviously, so there are your two credentials. Put a good plan in place and remove the distractions and all the barriers.'
According to Brailsford, Froome is good because he is coachable. He is self-aware of his talents and skills and where he needs improvement.
'If you take it back to the individual, who develops coachability for themselves, they know they need coaching, they recognize the need to improve, and they know what they need from a coach. They've got insight that they need some support.
'A really good coach would help with somebody's belief. The great coaching relationships have an alignment of belief. If you haven't got those beliefs in place, I think it's pretty difficult. If their beliefs are not genuine and congruent, you're never going to get a bind to move forward.
'A good coach will really support an individual to create greater ambition and belief in his own ability. Not just pumping their chest, but genuinely looking and saying, 'Look, this is what you're capable of doing,' and hopefully present that with some evidence and facts to really get that buy-in. If they're in place. I think the great coaches coach the person, not the plan.
'So you're sort of coaching somebody how to deliver this thing as optimally as we can. And then act as a good mirror or sounding board. Because we know, all of us, athletes included — we can all look in the mirror and kid ourselves with what we're seeing, you know, and it might not be reality. It might not be the reality, so we need a bit of objectivity now and again.'
'I'm not so worried about motivation actually,' Brailsford told Business Insider. 'Motivation is sort of surface, it kind of ebbs and flows. What I think you need is a deep-seated, intrinsic commitment. So if it is raining and it is wet and you don't feel like going out, thinking, 'Well, I don't feel motivated for this today.' A committed guy will do it anyway, whether he's motivated or not. I think a good coach can work with that.'
While Froome's teammate Mikel Landa had a super ride at this Tour, finishing fourth and looking stronger than his leader at certain points during the race, he still said he was supporting Froome for the win as that was always the team's objective. It was a telling example of the kind of single-purpose strategy that Team Sky is now known for.
'If you're a leader of an organisation or a team, you break the objective down into the individual tasks,' Brailsford said. 'So you come at it from three different lenses, as it were. The important thing in any organisation is to try to get an alignment between the individual and the team, a harmony of ambition. Actual team harmony I'm not so much bothered about. You know, sometimes there are some conflicts -- we can deal with that. It's better if it's harmonious, but the critical thing for me is goal harmony. Everybody's aligned, and there's an alignment between individuals' desires and that of the team.'
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