Chris Froome and his Team Sky’s recent dominance of the last two Grand Tours of 2017, has prompted some in the two wheeled industry to suggest bringing the British group down a notch. A salary cap, as used in other sports, would place a ceiling (or other spending restrictions) on the clams a team can spend on its riders, effectively making the world tour more ‘even’.
In order to gauge some professionals opinions on the subject of introducing a salary cap, the cycling media, in their galaxy of wisdom, asked a retiring pro, whose outstanding grand tour palmarès was arguably reduced following the birth of the ‘marginal gains’ boys. It doesn’t take a genius to guess what his answer was.
Next, one of the principal stake holders involved was asked. Froome, who has ridden with Team Sky since its inception, was quick to pour water on the fire, as the introduction of a salary cap would either lower his own salary, reduce the strength of his team, or both. Froome even went as far as making a somewhat dubious, and frankly, a laughably thin comparison between the introduction of a salary cap, and communism.
I’ll be the first to admit I find Team Sky’s style of racing about as interesting as your economics lecturer introducing isoquants, and Froome’s technique about as attractive as the top side of a halibut. Having said this, it’s fair to say some are getting a little carried away, after Sky was finally able to strangle the life out of two grand tours in a calendar year.
Perhaps taking a more objective look through the retrospectacles, we might ask how many grand tours has Sky won when ‘Froomey’ wasn’t riding? If you’re a little rusty on recent cycling history, the answer is, well, none. The next question to ask is, how many potential grand tour winners does Sky have, other than Froome? Gun to my head, I’d say Thomas, Poels, Landa (who is leaving the gang), and perhaps down the track, Kwiatkowski. That said, are these riders able to get the jump in a grand tour on Quintana, The Shark, and Chrono superstar, Dumoulin? It’s not impossible, but far from the odds of Nadal making the second round of Roland Garros.
Secondly, how good was Froome at Lombardia last year? The Ardennes classics? Milan-San Remo? Well, it’s obvious Chris is one a trick pony, but a (performance wise, obviously not in aesthetic terms) Lipicanec pony at that. The fact is, Froome, with a whole team supporting, rides to win grand tours, and doesn’t attempt to broaden his wins to other races, as many of his competitors do. This is not a criticism, but one should remember this when pointing to the dominance of Team Sky, as it is a relative dominance.
When the dust settles on his career, Froome will be counted as one of the all-time cycling greats, and Team Sky will have to adapt in order to support another rider. Will Team Sky’s next La Grande Boucle leader ride into Paris wearing yellow on four (and possibly more) separate occasions? I assume not.
Assuming my assumption doesn’t make an ass out of you and umption, Grand Tours should be much less dominated by the Daleks, and thus a far greater spectacle for us, the viewers, the day Froome hangs up the wheels.
Without the introduction of a salary cap.
Unfortunately, I cannot make it to the social club, but I’ll see you round the water cooler.