Tour de France 2013: Why is it we love Sir Bradley Wiggins yet find current British Tour de France leader Chris Froome hard to warm to?

Wiggo was like watching paint dry but Froome is riding with pure panache and instinct

On paper, it had everything: the first British cyclist to conquer the most fabled summit in the world’s greatest race. Where Tom Simpson had failed 46 years earlier, falling dead on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, a yellow-clad Chris Froome had triumphed, powering up it with such attacking spirit he would need oxygen to recover.

Yet Froome’s exploits earned just a brief mention in that night’s sports bulletins. He struggled even to make the front of the following day’s sports sections. And where he has featured in the final week of a thrilling Tour, the story hasn’t been about victory in the making as often as it has been about talk of doping.

Rewind a year and the contrast is stark. Sir Bradley Wiggins, too, faced the suspicions that are Lance Armstrong’s most poisonous contribution to cycling. But he was a hero and his face seemed to beam daily from the news-stands.  What does Froome have to do to get some love?

For a start, he could grow some sideburns, which isn’t as facile as it might sound. They are a symbol of something Wiggo had that his successor lacks – a winning personality.

Froome is the calm Austrian surgeon to Wiggins’ brash lead guitarist. Moreover, for a Kenyan-born man who grew up in South Africa and lives in Monaco, there  is what might be called the  Rusedski effect.

“I think the British public will always struggle with Chris Froome,” says Ned Boulting, who is covering his 10th Tour for ITV.

“He speaks with the wrong accent and his British heritage is paper-thin. I wonder if the British sporting public would have warmed more to the story of the first African to win the Tour.” But Froome, whose father was born in England, would have a PR mountain to climb even with a true Brit background.

Wiggins was the Olympic champion who grew up on a north London housing estate and nearly threw it all away to drink. His was the kind of sporting biography that editors dream about.

In this scenario, Froome becomes Kevin Pietersen to Wiggo’s Freddie Flintoff – arguably the better sportsman but less of a lad, and a bit South African.

The cricket analogy holds, too, when you consider the sports story that did make the front pages on Monday – England’s remarkable Test victory in the Ashes. Cycling might be booming, but it knows  its place.

All of which is to say, poor Chris Froome. “It’s a shame,” Boulting says. “They are the opposite as men and riders. Eyes were drawn to Brad when he talked, but he was like watching paint dry as a rider. But Froome is riding with pure panache and instinct.”

Naturally we care less about the prospect of a second British Tour winner than the first, but Froome’s fighting spirit is earning him huge respect among fans still hooked on the Tour.

And in a Team Sky missing the strength in depth that Wiggins enjoyed, a victory this weekend would surely be the greater achievement – as Sunday night’s news bulletins will, hopefully, reflect.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea