there is a mildly humorous anecdote regarding the lone ranger and tonto that goes something like this. chasing an escaped cattle rustler, our intrepid twosome are surrounded by a band of marauding apache. in order to defend themselves, they have dismounted and hidden behind a rocky outcrop. however, seriously outnumbered, things are not looking too good. the lone ranger turns to his indian colleague and says "i think we're in real trouble here". looking over to the masked avenger, tonto replies "what do you mean 'we', white man?"
for those perhaps less than familar with the above couple, the two were supposed to be almost inseparable, one having the other's back and vice versa. in other words, the best of pals. the very sort of happy relationship that existed between fausto coppi and gino bartali, alain prost and ayrton senna and bradley wiggins and chris froome. of course, i jest; none of the above would have been likely to invite the other out for a pint after work. in fact, in the pages of the climb, chris froome underlines this apparent lack of empathy between he and sir brad after the latter won the 2012 tour de france.
"I didn't get an invitation to the Yellow Ball. I would also be left out of a bonus payment from Brad to all the riders that had ridden for him as a token of his appreciation."
the climb along with many of the recent spate of so-called autobiographies is in serious danger of undermining the very meaning of the word. the prefix auto is intended to suggest that the subject of the book's contents more or less wrote the entire contents. looking at the cover of the climb, you and i both would be forgiven for thinking that was the case here. but arrive at page 435 and it is disappointing to read "Thank you to David Walsh, for taking the time to get to know me and for writing a book that truly reflects my character."
that's what's referred to as a biography.
now that we have that cleared up, it merely remains for us to second guess whether one or two of the assertions or rare bouts of humour are froome's or walsh's. when discussing a look of disapproval from british cycling's rod ellingworth: "I looked across at the driver of the GB car and I could see a black cloud of rage crossing his face. Rod rage." or later, a more barbed sense of humour: "The Tour of Poland had just ended and i had finished 85th on GC - not exactly knighthood territory."
of course, the premise of any autobiography, faux or otherwise, is that everything we are told is exactly how it all happened, when in fact, that can never be the case. everything is subjective, though perhaps mediated by the true author who is, all the while, pretending not to be the progenitor. the opening chapters concerning froome's halcyon days in kenya and the early career with barloworld have already been covered in david sharp's va va froome (still a terrible title). however, their inclusion here must be honestly welcomed by those readers for whom this is their first introduction to the world of chris froome.
but let's not kid ourselves, the main reason for opening the pages of the climb is to read about those prost and senna moments in the 2012 tour de france. sir brad put across his point of view in his recent my time, but now we're all keen to find out what really happened (sic).
serendipity is a wonderful part of life, and it's something that gave us the chris froome who reached the second step in 2012 and the top one in 2013. but for an almost freakish bout of fortuitousness, he might never have made it as far as his first tour de france; at least not with sky.
towards the end of his first season with the chaps in blue and black, froome was reasonably sure the team was unlikely to renew his contract. though his numbers were good, his race performances were largely unpredictable. and he wasn't called crash froome for nothing (something that might like to be reconsidered in the light of his abrupt departure from this year's tour de france). in his own words "sometimes you don't need a weatherman to tell you which way the wind is going to blow." places were up for grabs in the forthcoming vuelta team, and the final slot was between froome and lars petter, the latter having finished 16th in poland to froome's 85th.
however, lars petter took ill, and they sent froome instead, which is pretty much where history began. the subsequent chapter concerns each twist and turn of a spanish race in which froome finished 2nd and wiggins 3rd. suddenly froome was a someone, a rider with a nice new collection of uci points and a tad more bargaining power than he'd owned prior to the team time-trial in benidorm. in an allusion to the machiavellan dealings of riders' contract negotiations, we are then treated to a masterclass in miscomprehension, deliberate or otherwise, between froome, his agent and dave brailsford.
it becomes apparent, particularly when subsequently discussing that incident on the road to la toussuire, that froome had either understood, or had been given to understand that, assuming bradley to be in no danger as a summit finish appeared, he had free reign to head for the finish line alone. pertinent also, in the light of recent events, is brailsford's apparent insistence, when building a team for the 2012 tour, that it made perfect sense to have two gc contenders, thus giving sky both plan a and plan b.
"Case for the Prosecution: Mr Wiggins, or the agents thereof had retained the services of Mr Froome to do a specific job of adventuring. At a time when he could not be sure of Mr Wiggins's good health or spirits, Mr Froome chose to continue the adventure on his own thus causing physical and psychological damage to Mr Wiggins and spoiling everything."
a blow by blow account of the aftermath is dealt with at length, portraying several members of team sky's management in a rather poor light. obviously froome felt he did not act improperly, but it's clear that there was no love lost between the two riders, even prior to the la toussuire happenstance. interesting how times change.
to be perfectly frank, the climb could have and arguably should have ended there. despite all the foregoing, brad's absence from the 2013 tour team and his poor performance at the same year's giro d'italia almost passes without mention. and froome's victory in a 2013 paris is such recent history that few (self included) will be that desperate to reprise those 21 days in july. one has a sneaking suspicion, however, that the race was included to give the book's pretend author an opportunity to quote himself on the podium.
"...this is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time."
and is it ok if i make mention of the fact that it worries me just a bit that chris froome has his own logo?
sunday 13 july 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................