Chris Froome wins Tour but stays in Wiggins' shadow
It might be the drug insinuations or his Kenyan background, but Britain has not yet embraced its new Tour de France champion
CHRIS FROOME has become only the second British rider to win the Tour de France but he seems destined to remain in the shadow of last year's victor, Sir Bradley Wiggins.
Last year, when Wiggins triumphed there was "national rejoicing and hoopla", recalls Barry Glendenning in The Guardian. Such was the popularity of the boy from Kilburn that, after a glorious Olympics, Wiggins was crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
"By contrast, when Chris Froome emulated Wiggins's achievement by mounting the top step of the podium on the Champs Elysees in Paris on Sunday night ... [it] is likely to have been greeted with little more than a collective national shoulder-shrug," says Glendenning. "Such ennui seems unfair.
"It is difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is about Froome and his hugely impressive victory that has failed to capture the public imagination to even remotely the same extent as that of Wiggins."
He probably suffers in comparison to the cooler Wiggins, says Owen Slot in The Times. He describes Froome as "enigmatic", "inscrutable" and "nothing like the Lycra rock star we hailed on this same stretch of Parisian tarmac a year ago".
Last year Wiggins was dubbed 'Le Gentleman' by the French press, but it is a sobriquet that is better applied to Froome. "There is something of the throwback hero in him," says Slot. "Take it on the chin, reveal no weakness, be polite, move on."
Then there is the spectre of Lance Armstrong, who finally admitted after years of denials that he doped his way to his seven Tour de France titles. Froome's awesome displays in the mountains have led to some harsh questions.
"It is one thing to get the yellow jersey and be asked about drugs," explains Slot. "It is something totally different to have this pattern repeated almost every day for the next fortnight. Froome has been on trial here, on the road and off it. This Tour de France became an endurance test like no other."
It is Froome's misfortune "that he happens to be the first cyclist to win the Tour since Lance sat down with Oprah Winfrey", says Glendenning in The Guardian.
Perhaps the problem is that Froome was not well-known before his triumph. He comes from a "different world" to Wiggins, notes the Evening Standard. "Wiggins's face was already familiar to everyone, but Froome's story is still being told, the public still learning about this quiet 28-year-old not given to making a spectacle of himself."
Much has also been made of Froome's background: he hails from Kikuyu in Kenya. "Although Froome holds British citizenship, he is Kenyan at heart and in personality," states the Daily Nation in Nairobi. "Britain's glory should have been Kenya's."
The paper says that Froome's decision to ride for Britain was dictated by the lack of support he got from the Kenyan cycling administration. The officials who let him slip through their fingers "ought to be bluntly ashamed", writes Nation sports editor Allan Buluku.