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Little Froome for maneuver as Tour intrigue builds

By MURRAY GREIG | China Daily | Updated: 2020-07-03 09:00
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Team Ineos' Chris Froome before the race in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on Feb 23, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome's chances of a mid-season transfer appear to be over after a source told Cycling News this week that the 35-year-old Brit will stay with Team Ineos until his contract expires at the end of the season.

Tuesday's revelation followed weeks of speculation linking Froome to a mid-season move to Israel Start-Up Nation ahead of this year's Tour de France, which runs Aug 29-Sept 30.

Froome had also been linked to Bahrain McLaren, CCC Team and Movistar, but Bahrain, hit hard with financial constraints related to the COVID-19 pandemic, has put its riders on wage deferrals, while CCC Team has yet to find a sponsor beyond this season.

A slow response from Team Ineos when it came to contract talks opened the door for other teams to approach Froome, but at a recent training camp in Isola, France, the team assured him that he would figure prominently in its three-pronged leadership strategy at the Tour de France.

With Froome's position at Ineos in doubt ahead of the Tour, Egan Bernal and Geraint Thomas were touted to lead the team.

Returning from a long injury layoff after crashing at last year's Criterium du Dauphine, Froome, who has not raced a Grand Tour since 2018, has repeatedly told British media he is fit and ready to aim for a record-tying fifth Tour title.

Meanwhile, both Froome and Thomas are in contention for a place on Britain's team at the UCI Road World Championships, scheduled for Switzerland's hilly Aigle-Martigny course from Sept 20-27.

"We've got the Yates brothers (Adam and Simon), Thomas and Froome. Then we also have James Knox, Tao Geoghegan Hart and Hugh Carthy. They're all pretty strong climbers," Team Britain coach Matt Brammeier told Cycling News.

"Luke Rowe is also in the mix and Alex Dowsett has been focusing a lot on the TT (time trial) as well. The priority for me is having a motivated group."

Selection for the worlds is complicated due to the lack of racing since mid-March. The World Tour is scheduled to restart in early August but, with the worlds and final stage of the Tour de France overlapping, Brammeier is looking to hold off on his picks until the last moment.

"We're in the final stages of clarifying what the selection is going to look like. The nuts and bolts won't be too dissimilar to before but we're just going to have to account for results from last year and expand on that element of our documents," he said.

"That's really the only thing that's changed. It's going to be a bit more difficult when it comes to selection and we're going to have to communicate a bit better with what's going on and then just catch up with the riders to see where their focus is, to be honest."

"We don't have an official long list but we have a good group and we're motivated because it's our last shot before Tokyo to try and get our climbing group together.

"It's going to be a beneficial race for us and the lads who were thinking about Tokyo have all put up their hands and said that they're motivated to race at the worlds."

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