Features

Stuff Meets: Chris Froome

The 4x Tour de France winner talks tech, bikes and staying motivated

The Tour de France was brutal this year

There were a lot of crashes. It was a really tricky first week of racing, and it was unfortunate to see so many of the big contenders losing out so early on. But for me, just to be back in the Tour de France after my big crash two years ago felt amazing. That’s what’s been motivating me to complete the recovery process, and being back there and just being able to finish it felt like a win in itself.

Before I tried Hammerhead’s Karoo 2, cycling computers used to frustrate me

For a long time the cycling industry was using basic analogue technology that felt as if it wasn’t really with the times. Smartphone technology and tech in various other fields just seemed to be way ahead of where it was in cycling. But the Karoo 2 really raises the bar. Its platform is a lot more dynamic and in line with what you’d expect from a modern-day cycling computer. It almost feels like using an iPhone. The touchscreen is really high quality and responsive. Simple things like zooming in on maps, scrolling through pages and looking at data are extremely easy to do when on the go, which is what you need when you’re on the bike. And you don’t want to be fiddling with something that doesn’t work when you’re also trying to concentrate on the road.

The Hammerhead team responds really quickly to feedback from the pros

We’ve been working closely with them on the Climber feature, which basically takes any uphill sections of road that you have and breaks them down into very small colour-coded segments, so you can actually see the gradient really easily of the road that’s coming up. In races like the Tour de France that granular detail is really important. It mentally gives you things to work towards, and lets you know when it’s going to ease off a little. And it’s just as useful to riders who aren’t professional.

Tech has changed the sport so much since I turned professional at the age of 22

Back then, power meters, which measure how much force you’re putting on the pedals at any given point in your ride, just weren’t being used. Nobody really knew how. Now there are so many different tried and tested training programmes, intervals, sessions and workouts that people can download online or access very easily. I think that’s one of the reasons we’re seeing such young riders being able to compete at the very highest level so quickly. They’ve got access to our training files and know exactly what we’re doing through apps like Strava, and they’re replicating it at the age of 15 and 16, so by the time they turn pro they’re ready to win the Tour de France. Look at Tadej Pogačar. He’s won it twice already and he’s only 22. It’s incredible, and was unheard of back when I became a professional rider. There are so many sensors available now, too. Not just power and heart rate, but also for things like your blood lactate.

Not everyone in the sport is receptive to new tech

Some of the older generation would argue that when you’re able to control so many variables it takes the spontaneity out of racing. I think the opposite. My view is that having access to all these variables will only increase performance and we’ll see more exciting races because of it.

I love my gadgets

I always wear a smartwatch. At the moment it’s a Withings, which measures my sleep, waking heart rate etc. I like anything that can measure trends and show me patterns over time. I try and switch off my phone when I’m on the bike, but I do often mount it on my stem when I’m training, mostly for listening to music. I enjoy using AfterShokz bone conduction headphones, because they sit just outside your ears so you’re still easily able to hear traffic as well as whatever you’re listening to. It’s important as a bike rider not to feel totally cut off from the world.

I’m a big fan of eBikes

Particularly when it comes to off-road stuff. I love mountain biking, but one of the issues with mountain bikes, especially when you’re on the dirt and climbing, is that you don’t really go very far. An eBike is a great way of getting higher and further than you’d normally go on your own. And I definitely think when I retire I could see myself cruising around on an eBike. It'll be interesting to see if eBike racing takes off in the future. I’m not totally sure how you’d regulate it, but it could potentially prolong the careers of professional riders - those who still have all the knowledge and racing expertise but might be on the decline physically. That could be an avenue that opens up to older riders for sure.

Tom Pidcock really impressed me at the Olympics

It was a phenomenal ride that saw him get a gold medal in the men’s mountain bike cross-country in Tokyo. I watched it and it was such an exciting race. Again, such a young rider who’s got a huge future ahead of him. He’ll be lining up on the Tour de France in years to come I think and he’ll be up there with the best if he does. For now, though, getting a gold on the mountain bike is a huge achievement.

Cycling just keeps growing as an activity and a sport

Throughout the pandemic we’ve seen more people that ever get on a bike, and as the world is heading more towards green energy you’re going to see more people cycling their commute to work, which is fantastic to see. On the competitive side, the success of the new disciplines at the Olympics is just an indication that the sport is continuing to grow and expand.

My big crash two years ago made me reevaluate things

I was forced to stop for six months, bedridden for most of that and in a wheelchair for the rest of it. I had to look at where I was in the sport and if I still had that hunger and drive to continue. Every time I visited that question in my mind the answer was yes. I love the training, the mental side of it, the sacrifice and dedication it takes to get into the shape you need to be in if you want to be in contention for winning any races. I love that process, and if I’d just hung it up after the crash I would forever have been asking myself “what if I’d carried on going?” I don’t want to get to the end and have any what ifs. I ideally want to look back on my career at the age of 40 and know that I’ve given it my all, regardless of whether I’m winning or coming in at the back.

Chris Froome is on the Advisory Board for Hammerhead, makers of the Karoo 2, and invested in the company in May 2021