When Chris Froome talks about fighting back from the 2019 crash that threatened one of cycling’s most decorated careers, he speaks of “putting the blinkers on”.
He’s referring to his attempt to stay single-minded; to block out any nagging doubts that the toll the sport has taken on his body might deny him the fifth Tour de France crown that he craves.
Froome has, however, loosened the blinkers just enough to begin a side project, as an advisor to – and investor in – cycling technology company Hammerhead.
The Briton says he enjoyed using Hammerhead’s bike-mounted computers so much that he accepted an invitation to help develop the products.
His feedback has already led to new features being incorporated into the brand’s Karoo 2 unit.
Now he also owns a stake in Hammerhead, and the company is sponsoring Froome’s new team, Israel Start-up Nation.
“This was an amazing opportunity for me to have that first-hand experience with a partner, to develop something that we as professional cyclists want to see on our head units,” Froome tells City A.M.
“I really love cycling. I’m really passionate about the materials that I use and race with. These days, bikes are going more towards that digital, techy side of things. Training is more than ever being led by data.
“It’s a fascinating field and I thoroughly love all those aspects of it.”
Froome on his Hammerhead investment
Froome’s part-ownership of Hammerhead has seen him join the ever-growing ranks of athlete investors.
LeBron James, Serena Williams, David Beckham and Andy Murray are among the A-listers to have parlayed their sporting success into business portfolios.
While it may also prove financially fruitful, Froome’s is more of a passion project and a means of staying in cycling once his racing days are over.
“There are several different aspects to this for me,” he says.
“There is certainly the business aspect. But also, more than anything, I’d like to stay involved in the sport beyond my career.
“I’m not just going to get to the end of whatever year it is when I retire, hang it up and get out of the sport.
“This is one of the things, as I get towards the end of my career, I can be more and more involved in – and hopefully, post-career, even more involved.”
Some in cycling have wondered whether Froome’s struggles to recover the form that gleaned seven Grand Tours since his accident mean his race is almost run.
The former Team Sky rider, who turned 36 this month, is adamant that is not the case.
“It’s only natural that I’m starting to think about life beyond racing,” he says. “But I’m still a few years away. I’m not about to retire any time soon.”
Why fifth Tour de France ‘would be massive’
Froome is driven on by his quest for a fifth Tour de France, which would see him equal a record held by Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.
“It would be massive,” he says, his voice becoming more animated.
“I mean, I’m so close. Having won four Tours, I’ve come second and third as well. I’m right there on the border of making history. That’s a huge incentive for me.”
He will be among the riders pursuing the yellow jersey when the Tour begins in Brest on 26 June, although he is realistic about his chances this year.
“In the immediate future my biggest focus is just returning to previous levels. I’ve still got work to do,” he says.
“I’m much closer on longer efforts – your 20-30 minute longer type intervals. But I’m still missing on the more explosive, shorter stuff – the 1-2-3 minute, kind of peak power.”
That power deficiency is a consequence of the broken femur Froome suffered in that horrific crash in training two years ago.
And this is where his work with Hammerhead has paid off. At his request, the company incorporated a feature to measure pedal power from each leg in real time. Gradually, his right side has got stronger and stronger.
“I’ve made some good progress,” he says. “We’re within half a per cent of where we were previously. I’m really happy with that.”
Froome on age-defying Federer and Valverde
Froome has spoken about drawing inspiration from other sportspeople who have defied the ageing process.
Evergreen NFL quarterback Tom Brady is one of his role models, as is 20-time Grand Slam winner Roger Federer, who turns 40 in August.
“Federer – you can’t not mention him, how he’s managed to keep his level all the way to nearly 40. From a tennis player’s point of view that’s pretty incredible,” says Froome.
“I do get a kick out of seeing the older guys performing. It gives me a lot of motivation.”
There is another example closer to home that Froome says he looks to: Alejandro Valverde, the Spanish cyclist who in 2018 came back from a broken kneecap to become road race world champion at the age of 38.
“He managed to become world champion a year and a half after his accident. And he’s still winning bike races now. So I certainly don’t see why it’s not possible,” he says.
“I think so much of it is mental stimulation. It’s easy to get a bit complacent and bored as you get older. You’re doing the same thing over and over again in endurance sport.
“Having data from earlier years that you can compare and drive you on to hit those levels, I think that’s hugely important. I’m certainly optimistic.”