Chris Froome’s position on the bike (and in cycling)
For much of this year’s Tour de France, I’ve been trying to work out whether Chris Froome looks more like a stick insect or a grasshopper when he’s on a bike. I was just settling on grasshopper when I saw this. Turns out he looks more like a praying mantis.
A scuttling riding style
It’s the elbows that make me think of insects. Sharp, angular and protruding to the sides, there’s a possibility that no-one dared overtake him, fearing they might sustain a punctured lung or something.
The praying mantis is perhaps an appropriate creature in other ways too. On the face of it peaceful (it is named for its prayer-like posture) it is actually a vicious predator which eats its prey alive – sometimes starting with the head. Listen to Froome in an interview and you would never suspect the pain he can inflict.
I like him
In a team often unfairly characterised as being one that quashes individuality, Froome is unmistakeably his own man. He may not speak confidently and his smile may be as nervous as they come, but he has done everything in his power to get himself from Kenya to the Champs Élysées.
That has included hacking into the Kenyan cycling federation’s email account to enter himself into the Under-23 World Time Trial Championships as rider, team manager and mechanic, before travelling there alone. Possibly less admirably – but perhaps as importantly in its own way – it has meant drawing attention to his superiority over a team-mate in order to make a case for being a Grand Tour leader.
Doubtless there has been plenty more, including a little bit of training somewhere along the way.
Tour legacy-wise, he’s in a good position. His biggest rivals in this year’s Tour were primarily climbers and future Tour routes are highly likely to feature more time trialling – a discipline in which he is far superior. It’s also hard to see his motivation waning, being as that appears to be one of his defining qualities.
In South African mythology, the praying mantis is sometimes referred to as a god, but that’s probably a bit much. Most of us just see it as a freaky insect with inhuman qualities and that seems a far better description of this year’s Tour de France victor.