Pace setter: Kenyan-born Chris Froome, winner of the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in 2017, raises a plaque that celebrates his achievement. Picture: REUTERS
Pace setter: Kenyan-born Chris Froome, winner of the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana in 2017, raises a plaque that celebrates his achievement. Picture: REUTERS

London — Chris Froome was hailed in the British media on Monday for completing a Tour de France-Vuelta a Espana double but coverage of his feat was relatively low-key.

In an historic feat, the 32-year-old joins Frenchmen Jacques Anquetil (1963) and Bernard Hinault (1978) as the only riders to have won the Tour and Vuelta in the same year.

But Froome is the first man to win both races since the Vuelta was moved to after the Tour in the racing calendar in 1995.

The Times called it a "monumental achievement" and The Daily Mirror said he had pulled off "one of the most outstanding feats in British sporting history".

In the eyes of The Daily Telegraph, the four-time Tour de France champion now deserves to be considered "one of the greats, not simply of cycling but of British sport".

The Guardian emphasised the role played by Team Sky and said Froome’s dominance of stage races had "not been seen since Miguel Induráin’s purple patch between 1991 and 1995".

But The Guardian was the only paper in which Froome’s achievement was the leading sports story of the day, with football dominating elsewhere.

Despite his phenomenal success, the quietly spoken Froome has never captured British and other hearts in the same way as his charismatic former Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins.

Explanations for his relative lack of popularity range from the fact that he was born in Kenya to the doping suspicions that continue to swirl around his team.

"Raised in Africa, resident in Monaco" was how The Times summed up how Froome was viewed in Britain.

British former cyclist David Millar, writing in The Telegraph, said Froome "would probably admit deep down that he feels more African than British".

Froome had his first taste of competitive cycling with Team Konica-Minolta in SA and it was not long before Rob Hunter convinced Barloworld to sign him in 2008. Two years later he had been snapped up by Team Sky.

In a piece entitled, "So, why can’t we warm to Froome?" The Mail’s chief sports writer Matt Lawton said doubts about Sky’s practices and doping in cycling, in general, were also held against the rider.

After winning his third Tour de France in 2016, Froome was surprisingly left off the short list for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

The award, voted for by the general public, rewards the outstanding performer in British sport in each calendar year.

Millar said it would be "criminal" if Froome were not shortlisted this year.

Froome is currently second-favourite to win the award, behind world heavyweight boxing champion Anthony Joshua.

When asked about his chances of winning this year’s award, Froome told British papers: "I am not going to hold my breath."

AFP

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