Chris Froome is a great champion who deserves to be respected much more than he has been so far this season, according to Bradley Wiggins.
The 35-year-old found the going tough at the centenary edition of the Volta a Catalunya; a chastening ride which was perhaps compounded by the roaring success enjoyed by his former team Ineos.
Speaking on the latest episode of his Eurosport podcast, Wiggins and guest Matt Stephens gave a strong defence of Froome, who is still recovering from what could have been a life-threatening injury.
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"Is it going to be enough for the Tour?" Wiggins asked on the podcast, in reference to his former team-mate.
"I thought the Vuelta last year was a really good step up the ladder in terms of getting back to the old Chris Froome. I thought he might have been a little bit further ahead of where he’s at, certainly a top-10 performance around that Hugh Carthy sort of region.
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"I wouldn’t say I fear for him, but with every week that goes by, and every race that goes by, it’s becoming less likely that we’re going to see a Chris Froome at this year’s Tour de France that is capable of winning in the old manner.
"It must be a strange feeling for him being on the receiving end of perhaps an even stronger unit of Ineos than when he was there.
I do think he warrants a bit more respect. Let’s just give him a break, because he’s come back from something… if anything, we should celebrate. It’s good to see him back in the peloton.
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Stephens wholeheartedly agreed, and added that everyone in cycling should give the Israel Start-Up Nation star a fair opportunity to return after everything he has been through.
"Whatever your views are of Chris Froome, as an athlete and doing what he does for a living, hitting a wall at 60kph and breaking multiple bones in his body, and he is now back riding at a professional level... I just think it is going to take time," Stephens said.
Again, Chris Froome has come in for quite a lot of vitriol and quite a lot of flak. Step back from this a minute: 2019, the guy nearly died!
"I just think he needs more time, but it is going to be tough for him to be competitive at the Tour de France. When he signed that contract it was post-crash, but they signed one of the most talented riders of his generation."
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