Did Chris Froome Really Just Pull Off This Unbelievable Strava Ride?
Like many of us, Chris Froome has been out on his bike, cranking out some base kilometres for the season ahead. But for the Team Sky champion, that includes some serious goals. Like, say, winning both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France.
So it wasn’t surprising that the four-time Tour winner would have a big last week in January, racking up 1126-plus kilometres and 14,804 metres of climbing over 33:31 hours. What did raise some eyebrows – and a red flag on Strava – was the week’s crowning effort: a Sunday ride in South Africa titled “Empty the tank,” where Froome covered 271 kilometres and 3,485 metres in 6:04:02, averaging 45 km/h.
Cyclist, the UK website, compared the ride to the 2017 Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a one-day race covering a similar distance (257 kilometres) in Belgium. Last year’s winner, Alejandro Valverde, averaged 40 km/h with the help of a team and a peloton.
Strava’s ride file includes no heart rate or power data, which has led some on the social training site to question whether Froome relied on a motorbike – or at least the draft of a motor vehicle. Hunter Allen, founder of the Peaks Coaching Group and co-author of Training & Racing with a Power Meter, says the latter is highly likely.
“You’d have to stop at a store three times for food and water on a ride that long in the South African heat, so he definitely had a follow car,” Allen tells Bicycling. “If you look at some of the speeds he is holding along long stretches, he’s likely doing some motor pacing behind that vehicle as well, which is common on a training ride like that.”
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Whether that was really the case, no one knows for sure. Allen notes that it would make the ride, which some are calling impossible, “totally doable.” That said, the Strava community frowns on taking KOMs with the aid of a motor draft, so the five crowns Froome bagged on his big day out have been removed from the leaderboard while the ride is under question.
Even with the aid of some motor pacing, Allen says, “that’s still a really big, hard training ride.” His only concern is that it’s a little early for Froome to be going quite that hard: “It’s January. The Giro is still quite a ways off. I’d be concerned from a coaching standpoint that he’s going a little too well this early in the season.”