Chris Froome has stormed to his fourth Tour de France title. He has done it again with clinical excellence and is assured of his place as Britain’s greatest ever cyclist, so why is he not celebrated like one. We all know about the French animosity to the Team Sky leader. He has suffered the indignity of being booed, spat on and even on one occasion having urine thrown over him while riding. A bigger issue though is that even his own team fans and nation have ever got behind him. He has not been seen on the Sports Personality of the Year despite achieving more than many contenders combined. His achievements don’t even make the front bages in Britain. Where is this lack of enthusiasm coming from and why does it seem impossible for Froome to win an adoring public like other cycling champions.
The Nationality Issue
The most obvious point of contention is the issue of his nationality. Firstly, Chris Frome was born in the east Africa country of Kenya. He then moved to South Africa where his epic cycling journey began. He entered professional cycling via Barloworld who were the only UCI World Tour team from Africa at the time. These countries may be former colonies but they are hardly representative anymore o the British public. With his success Froome moved to Europe and eventually settled in Monaco, where he lives now. This means the British Cyclist Chris Froome has never actually lived in the country.
There are many people probably pointing to England stars in other sports such as Greg Rudseski or Dylan Hartley as foreign-born stars, but if you have never lived in a country you have no feeling or the people there. If you can’t connect with them in any way they will never connect with you. That is just my opinion though.
The Personality Problem
British stars from cycling in the past have been popular not only because of their success but also their charisma. Bradley Wiggins is the obvious choice whose backstory could be relatable for many British fans. His humble beginnings on Herne Hill Velodrome makes everyone aspire to his level. David Millar is another popular man. His story is one of redemption after recovering from a doping ban to be a major advocate of clean riding. He was also an exciting cyclist often in the breakaways and his hot temper made for some good TV moments.
Chris Froome is unfortunately lacking in both story and personality. His story is actually likely to be of interest but whether because of the distance or his lack of promoting very few people know it. He is a very serious man on the bike with few quirks and his poker face might help him in the peleton but not when winning fans. The Brits love an underdog so there could be a case of just being too good. Wiggins toiled for years and made improvements before his tour win. Froome on the other hand has a certain terminator effectiveness and his lack of grimace means the viewers can’t see his effort.
In media terms he is also rather bland, rarely giving any indication to his emotion nor provides any light hearted moments. His media training is just as prepared as his riding it seems.
What Can He Do?
Froome is probably the least concerned about this issue than the press. In fact, the anonymity probably helps his preparations and he is lucky the British press don’t often hound him like they do to other known stars. As a cyclist at his level winning is everything. If he did have the inkling to improve relations and build a fan base the most basic step is to increase exposure and let the fans see the real him behind the sunglasses and off the bike.