Six Tour wins are not impossible for Froome, but the odds are clearly stacked against him
When Team Sky first formed in 2010, the stated goal was to win the Tour de France with a British rider. After two frustrating attempts, they accomplished the task in their third season with Bradley Wiggins.
But they also found a rider that year who would become the heart of the team: then-27-year-old Chris Froome, who got second to Wiggins and was broadly thought to have been stronger than his team leader. Froome, as we all know, would go on to win four of the next five Tours, and has now won three straight. This year, he dispatched perhaps the deepest field of competitors he’s faced yet, by his narrowest margin.
Froome has won Tour stages - and Tours - on mountaintops and in time trials. He’s attacked and gained time on descents, and even shown aggressiveness in crosswinds. He’s improved his once-shaky descending skills to the point that he’s now one of the better bike handlers among the GC contenders. He has a complete set of talents and rides for the strongest team in the sport: Sky, which is utterly devoted to him at the Tour, boasts a reported $40 million budget that dwarfs that of most competitors. (The Cannondale-Drapac and Ag2r-la Mondiale teams of second and third-placed Rigoberto Uran and Romain Bardet run on less than a third of that.)
So in 2018, Froome will almost certainly make a run for a fifth Tour title, which would tie him with Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain for most all-time. (Lance Armstrong’s run of seven straight Tour wins was stripped when he was found to have doped for all of them.)
Can he do it? Could he then, in 2019, win a sixth Tour and become the race’s most successful rider in history? It’s certainly possible. But it’s not likely. Here’s why:
The Competition is Coming
As we noted, this was Froome’s closest win yet. Four riders were within three minutes of him on GC, and were it not for Romain Bardet’s disastrous Stage 20 time trial, the top three might have been even closer.
What’s more, several top challengers either weren’t in the race or weren’t in top form. Vincenzo Nibali, the 2014 Tour winner, raced the Giro d’Italia and skipped the Tour this year. Same for Giro winner Tom Dumoulin. Top climbers Nairo Quintana and Thibaut Pinot both raced the Giro and were clearly tired from that effort. Quintana, second at the Giro, was regularly distanced on the climbs at the Tour, and Pinot (fourth at the Giro) was an afterthought and dropped out in the Alps. Two top challengers, Alejandro Valverde and Richie Porte, crashed out, on Stage 1 and Stage 9, respectively.
That doesn’t account for the coming challenge from Mikel Landa, Froome’s team-mate this year and possibly the strongest climber in the race. Nor does it factor in up-and-coming riders like the Yates twins, who have each won the best young rider competition in the Tour.