Now, around this time, Chris Froome should have played one of those inspiring athlete stories. Should have added a new narrative to his vita as one of the best cyclists in the world: the path from the radiant superstar to the man of pain lying on the ground back to the radiant superstar. The script was written, but the schedule was mixed up - and may no longer be realized. Because Froome, the former dominator of his guild, four-time Tour de France winner between 2013 and 2017, is clearly behind the peloton. Sometimes in an almost humiliating way. Even just 16 months after his comeback.

Froome himself declared the week-long French tour Critérium du Dauphiné last week as a performance test against which he would like to be measured. Especially on the steepest climbs and in the time trial, where it once had its strengths. Out came 47th place, just under 42 minutes behind the winner. Froome never knew how to put himself in the limelight at any minute of the race - as with almost all of his 4,800 kilometers of racing in five stage races this year. "From this level," said Froome, "I won't win the Tour de France in a few weeks."

The goal for which he was committed by the up-and-coming Israel Start-Up Nation (ISN) at the beginning of the year and committed for the long term has been postponed.

Which is no longer a surprise.

For the British, it is now only a matter of being nominated by his team for the Tour of France starting on June 26th.

For the biggest and most important race that defined his career.

Dissatisfied sports officials

ISN's sporting director, Rik Verbrugghe from Belgium, recently said that Froome is constantly improving, but the team would have liked to see the performance curve rise more exponentially. In short: those responsible for sport are dissatisfied with the fact that the highest paid racing driver in the world in their ranks does not live up to the expectations associated with the Froome name. The only question is whether Froome was able to get back to the old level so “quickly” after his horror accident.

It was almost exactly two years ago: During a tour of the Dauphiné tour, he crashed into a house wall at over 50 kilometers per hour and suffered various broken bones.

Cycling, which he previously dominated with superhuman strength and the clinical precision of the former Sky team, had brought him to the intensive care unit.

Farther back

“I know where I came from. A year ago I was riding my bike and racing before I could even run properly again. To be with the Dauphiné, to run properly, to have no problems, to be in the race is a big step forward, ”said Froome. When it comes to public relations, the Kenyan-born athlete has practically nothing else for months than conjuring up his physical progress, but also demonstrating how far the way back to the top is. “I'm just concentrating on getting to my old level. Step by step, ”said Froome.

That sounded different when he was signed by the ISN team, which was subsidized by the colorful billionaire Sylvan Adams.

With the Israeli team, Froome wanted to penetrate the exclusive circle of riders who have won the Tour de France five times.

The current members are: Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Jacques Anquetil.

"With Chris, we will take to new heights and reach the top of the sport," said ISN co-owner Adams.

The cycling company, which was still second-rate in 2019, had a new profile with the Froome commitment and rose by a bang in the WorldTour ranking.

Bad investment?

At least in terms of publicity. Only if Froome does not appear sporty, the headlines will probably be less. Is the deal a big bad investment? Does the bet on Froome, who is said to collect over five million euros a year, fail? Especially since it is a fine line for a cycling team when the salaries of a superstar far exceed those of the others, but the latter does not appear as the leader in the big races, behind whom everyone can gather.

He made mistakes in the regeneration after the accident, said Froome, because he got back on the bike too quickly. In his last of eleven glorious years with Team Ineos - including the doping shadow that demonstrated an increased value of the asthma drug Salbutamol on his career in 2018 - he wanted to write his big comeback story at the Tour de France 2020. The British team does not nominate him for the Tour of France but for the Tour of Spain.

But at the Vuelta later that year, Froome lost a hefty eleven minutes on the first stage. And for ISN, too, he has been romping around in the back of the peloton since then, regularly left behind by drivers who used to be far from his collar. In any case, Froome has put on a thick skin in his efforts to regain the pressure on the pedals. To all the countless opinions expressed in the established and social media that it was time to hang up his bike, he recently responded in a video message: "I can only laugh about that."