Sunday, July 21, 2013

Chris Froome the mountain tamer is a down-to-earth guy

RICHIE PORTE'S TOUR DIARY

Chris Froome rides on the wheel of teammate Richie Porte in the final stage of the Tour de France.

Chris Froome rides on the wheel of teammate Richie Porte in the final stage of the Tour de France. Photo: Getty Images

Everyone asks me what Chris Froome is like. It's no secret that we are good mates. We both live in Monaco. We train together. At races we room together - even at the Tour de France. And obviously, I am usually one of the last riders to be with him when the race heats up on the final mountain.

So I do see a far bit of him. But when people ask what he is like, I sometimes wonder if they expect me to come up with some amazing insight.

I'm not really sure what to say. It's not as if I have a checklist that makes someone my mate. It's just a natural feel. And in 'Froomey' I have that feel.

Sorry to start with a cliche, but the Chris Froome you see is the Chris Froome he is. He is such a normal, calm relaxed guy - except that as from today, with the final stage of this year's Tour on Sunday behind us, he is a Tour de France champion which in itself is something truly exceptional.

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I first met 'Froomey' while racing in the 2008 Herald Sun Tour in Australia, where he finished fourth overall and I was fifth. But it wasn't until late 2011 when I had just signed to join Team Sky for 2012 and we were at a pre-season training camp at Livigno that I really started to talk to him. It was after that camp, when we returned to Monaco where Bobby Julich, our then coach, lived - that we both realised how much time we would spend together.

In the last few years, I have ridden for some big names leaders. There was Alberto Contador before I joined Sky, and then last year there was Bradley Wiggins. And now there is 'Froomey'. Each are different in their personality and racing style, but all of them have won at least one Tour de France.

At Team Sky, it is easy to see that there is a distinct difference between the Britons, Wiggins and Froome - in their personality and their riding style.

Some people were critical about how Brad's win came about last year, but he is a time trialler. For a guy like Brad, of course we were going to ride the climbs at time trial pace. But you know, he still won the Tour. He and us raced the course to his strengths and he delivered. Thumbs up to that I say.

Froomey is obviously different. For him, the harder it is on the stage the better he is going to go. He is a scrapper I guess. He is also so relaxed. He thanks everyone after a race. He walks room to room to thank people. Not one person in the team has a problem with him. I have never seen him not stop and sign an autograph for anybody, and after the amount of stick he has copped along the roads, I can't believe he has kept as calm as he does.

As for him letting me lead the peloton onto the Champs Elysees on Sunday's finale stage? I couldn't say "thanks mate" enough times to show how much that meant to me. What an honour it was. And on the 100th Tour. Whatever happens from here ... that will be a moment I will cherish forever.

* Richie Porte's wrote an exclusive daily Tour de France diary from the race for Fairfax Media.


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