MACON, France (AFP) –
From riding mountain bikes to school in Nairobi to finishing on the podium of the world’s biggest bike races, Chris Froome’s voyage from Kenya to cycling’s elite is the stuff of fairytales.
But for the Nairobi-born racer, winning one of cycling’s biggest prizes may have to wait – for now.
Froome, who finished runner-up at the Tour of Spain last year one place ahead of Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins, has been one of the sensations of the Tour de France so far.
He beat defending champion Cadel Evans to victory in the first hilltop finish of the race on stage seven, when Wiggins took the race lead, and was the only Sky rider to help Wiggins stave off a series of attacks the next day.
The icing on the cake so far for the 27-year-old was a superb performance in the stage nine time trial on Monday.
While Wiggins won the stage, his first ever in the Tour, to stretch his lead over Evans to 1min 53sec, Froome moved up to third place overall at just 14secs off Australian Evans.
It has led to a similar scenario to last year’s Tour of Spain, only then Froome took the leader’s red jersey after Wiggins ran out of juice on a steep climb before losing it to eventual winner Juan Jose Cobo of Spain.
This time, Froome says he is dedicated to making sure Wiggins becomes the first Briton to win the world’s biggest bike race.
“My priority is to get Bradley on the top step of the podium in Paris,” said Froome, who spent the first 14 years of his life just outside Nairobi before moving to South Africa where he took up road cycling.
After his performances in the mountains, as well as in the time trial where he beat both Evans and four-time world champion Fabian Cancellara, Froome is being talked of here as the next big Grand Tour winner.
Whether that is with Team Sky or not remains to be seen.
But Froome added: “I know my time will come one day, and that I’ll be back here with a team that’s backing me the way we’re all backing Bradley now.
“This is the way it is. I’ve got a job to do and if I was in Bradley’s position I’d want every member of that team to be saying what I’m saying now.”
Froome, who said he may ride the Tour of Spain in September — where he would likely have a shot at victory — says he expects to be given the chance to win his own Grand Tour.
“Eventually, the GC (general classification) is a goal for me but I know there are many steps to be taken and that this is just one of them,” he said.
Given his African background, Froome admits he still gets a lot of interest in his career from Kenya and South Africa.
But while he fell in love with road racing “on bikes with thin tyres that went so fast” in South Africa, it is the laid-back lifestyle of Kenya he misses.
“It’s a lot more liberal, and there’s a whole different mindset,” he said.
“Yes, I definitely miss it.”