Kenya, South Africa, Great Britain and â€¦ Switzerland. That's right, from April to September 2007, Christopher Froome, aged 22, was a trainee at the World Cycling Centre (WCC) in Aigle at the Headquarters of the International Cycling Union (UCI). Alex Roussel, the WCC's head mechanic, remembers the young rider from the South African Konica-Minolta team, who arrived during the season with blonde locks, tanned complexion and Kenyan and British passports. "You would never have dreamed that he would achieve what he has, but he did stand out because of his determination. He wanted to make an impression in Europe." The young rider had been talent spotted in races by the World Cycling Centre Africa. "He wasn't bad," recalls Michel ThÃ¨ze, then his coach at the WCC. "He could do everything."
Between April and September 2007 (returning home for his national championships in the early summer), Froome rode Italian regional races in the Nations' Cup, the Mi-AoÃ»t Bretonne (a Europe Tour event that he won) and then competed in the Under-23 World Championships in Stuttgart. He finished 41st in the time trial, won that year by Lars Boom. As was so clearly demonstrated in France this July, Froome has considerably improved his time trial performances. But already at the WCC, Froome had been recognised as a young rider with potential. "He never really stood out in his category when he was with us," remembers Roussel, "But he had potential as a climber and rouleur and made progress despite his technical deficiencies." This is an opinion shared by his coach. "He was a little uncomfortable when he arrived because he wasnâ€™t used to riding in a peloton of 200 riders. But he had changed by the time he left, and you forgot how overwhelmed he had been at the beginning."
Froome: "My journey has been an extraordinary adventure"
In terms of his personal characteristics, the Chris Froome of 2007 is consistent with the Chris Froome of today. Heâ€™s calm, accessible â€“ difficult in fact to imagine him as the team leader he has become. "No, no, I didnâ€™t see him as a team leader," says Roussel. Constantly talking to his team via race radio, as was evident at the top of Alpe dâ€™Huez, the British rider always welcomes information and advice. "He was always prepared to listen." A budding star, but one with no hint of arrogance. "He was aggressive without being nasty about it," recalls ThÃ¨ze. This potent cocktail has allowed Froome, an African, to enter the Tour de France record books. "My journey has been an extraordinary adventure," said the winner of the 100th Tour de France. "I would like my victory to inspire young Africans who perhaps think that they will never be able to leave Africa to pursue their sport."
Click here for the interwiew with Alex Roussel, WCC master mechanic