William Fotheringham

Author's details

Name: William Fotheringham
Date registered: October 13, 2014
URL: http://www.theguardian.com/sport/cycling

Latest posts

  1. Tour de France: why I am bidding au revoir to the greatest race of all — July 25, 2017
  2. Why I don’t think Chris Froome will win a fifth Tour de France title | William Fotheringham — July 24, 2017
  3. Sky’s the limiting factor for Chris Froome in Tour de France popularity stakes — July 23, 2017
  4. Tour de France diary: Macron’s man-hug, Barguil usurps Bardet and a killer wolf | William Fotheringham — July 22, 2017
  5. Daniel Martin enlivens Tour de France with aggressive approach — July 22, 2017

Author's posts listings

Jul 25

Tour de France: why I am bidding au revoir to the greatest race of all

After covering 26 Tours I have some wonderful memories but the 2017 race was my last reporting full-time. It is time to spend my Julys doing something else

When I returned from reporting on the Tour de France for the first time I told my then boss, Martin Ayres, that I felt the Tour could be addictive. That was 27 years and 26 Tours ago, which speaks for itself. Now it is time to go through the journalistic equivalent of cold turkey. I have decided this is my last Tour reporting full-time for the Guardian, nearly a quarter of a century after I was first offered the job.

I will return to the race, I would hope, but not as a full-time, daily reporter, which is what I have been for 26 of the past 27 Tours – 20 of them completed in full – with all the stimulus, constraints, rewards and stress that role entails. I won’t be on the road next year; if and when I return it will be at a time of my choosing, to write about it in a different and equally rewarding way. I would hope it will be for the Guardian, but that particular decision can wait.

Related: Why I don’t think Chris Froome will win a fifth Tour de France | William Fotheringham

Related: Women could cycle the Tour de France route, so why give them La Course?

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/25/tour-de-france-william-fotheringham-2017

Jul 24

Why I don’t think Chris Froome will win a fifth Tour de France title | William Fotheringham

Team Sky’s champion never looked dominant in the 2017 race despite a lack of seasoned contenders, and at 32 he cannot go on defying the years

With no disrespect to Chris Froome immediately after his fourth Tour de France win, I do not believe that the Team Sky leader will make it five and thus join the ranks of the immortals: Indurain, Merckx, Hinault and Anquetil. Not next year, and probably not the year after. I appreciate that the accusations that I am indulging in anti-Team Sky, anti-Froome wishful thinking will flood in but I would like to think this is based on logical analysis as well as emotion. Not emotion in the tear‑your‑hair‑out sense, but on the feeling you get in your bones.

This was not actually the closest of the Froome Tours: that was 2015, when Nairo Quintana had the form to win, and might well have won if Movistar had been more dynamic before unleashing him at l’Alpe d’Huez. However, the 2017 race was a Tour in which Froome never looked dominant. Not winning a stage is not a sign of a lack of charisma – winning bike races is hardly simple, as we all know – but it is usually an indication that a champion is not quite what he was.

Related: Chris Froome: ‘I’d like to be here for the next five years, trying to win’

Potentially, he could turn up in the Vendée in 2018 to face a dozen serious threats, many of them younger than him.

Related: Chris Froome wins fourth Tour de France after Champs Élysées procession

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/24/why-chris-froome-will-not-win-five-tours-de-france

Jul 23

Sky’s the limiting factor for Chris Froome in Tour de France popularity stakes

Briton’s four wins place him in exalted company, but team’s image prevents fans from properly celebrating his achievements

In 1963, the Tour de France organisers devised a route to discomfit Jacques Anquetil, who had just won the race for the third time. The time trial kilometrage was slashed and the mountain stages increased. It did not work: Anquetil took his fourth Tour in emphatic style. A similar process can be traced leading to Chris Froome’s fourth Tour win, sealed in Marseille in one of the most scenically beautiful and atmospheric stages the event has ever run.

This Tour route looked tailored for the young French hopeful Romain Bardet, he of the nerveless descending skills, more downhill skier than cyclist, but the outcome was the same as in 1963: the man who, on paper, was least favoured by the route, ended up the winner, taking his fourth Tour.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/23/sky-chris-froome-tour-de-france

Jul 22

Tour de France diary: Macron’s man-hug, Barguil usurps Bardet and a killer wolf | William Fotheringham

Another Chris Froome PR disaster; cringeworthy presidential memories; a new French hero is born; and a return to Puy-de-Dôme must be on the cards

For the first time this year, I drive the roads of the Tour stage; the last 120km. Up to 10 years ago, this was a daily occurrence, but it is something we never do now, as all superfluous cars are directed on to a diversionary route to avoid risks to spectators. As always, there are insights to be gained from actually seeing the roads that you simply don’t get from a television camera, and there is local colour in abundance. Everywhere is the emblem of the Beast, an 18th century legend involving – depending on who you believe – a vast homicidal wolf, or a serial killer who covered his crimes by inventing the legend of the wolf. Vast wolf prints are drawn on the road, trailers of hay bales are covered with wolf posters, and a lifesized wolf model sits on a roundabout in the town of Saugues. Also commemorated is a big beast of French cycling writing, Pierre Chany, whose poster adorns a tower in his home village of La Margeride. The L’Équipe writer died in 1996, one of the last of the old-school devotees of chain-smoking Gaullists, proper lunch breaks and typed copy, who could recall passing a bottle to Louison Bobet from a press motorbike in the mid-50s. Truly the stuff of legend.

Related: How it feels to tackle the Tour de France’s ‘final battle’ – the Col d’Izoard

Related: Allez allez! Le Tour de France – a photo essay

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/22/tour-de-france-diary-macron-barguil-bardet-froome

Jul 22

Daniel Martin enlivens Tour de France with aggressive approach

The attacking tactics employed by Daniel Martin at the Tour de France have seen him secure the highest finish by an Irish rider since his uncle Stephen Roche won the race in 1987

Daniel Martin is not a man for might-have-beens, so let us fill in the gaps. The Birmingham-born Irishman is set to ride into Paris in sixth place overall, the best Irish finish since his uncle Stephen Roche won the race 30 years ago. But were he a might-have-been man, Martin would have every right to look back at two days in particular in the past three weeks and wonder, just a little.

On stage nine into Chambéry, he fell over Richie Porte as the Australian rolled down the road on the descent from the final climb and lost 1min 19sec. At the finish in Romans-sur-Isére, he was left isolated in the finale when the crosswinds blew, and lost 51sec. Total loss on those two days; 2min 10sec, through no fault of his own. Going into Saturday’s time trial in Marseille, Martin was 2min 56sec behind Chris Froome, implying that, with a little better luck, he might have got close to the podium.

Related: Team Sky rule the Tour de France again but will remain unloved | Richard Williams

Related: How Stephen Roche ruled cycling in 1987 | Steven Pye

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/22/daniel-martin-tour-de-france

Jul 17

Tour de France enters final week with all to play for … and the Galibier looms | William Fotheringham

Friday’s time trial from Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome could prove crucial but two huge mountain stages before then may be pivotal for Chris Froome and co

The gaps in the Tour are small but nothing has yet been seen on the scale of the four monstrous climbs that await on Wednesday and Thursday, all over 2,000m in altitude and, in the case of the Croix de Fer and Galibier, of a length we haven’t seen in the race so far. Chris Froome and his team have only to watch the rest, while grabbing what time they can close to the finish, because on paper the Briton is the strongest time triallist so can bank on gaining time on Saturday in Marseille. Thus, it falls to Romain Bardet, Fabio Aru, and Rigoberto Urán – the strongest climbers in the race so far – to attack; Dan Martin and Simon Yates have not looked quite at the level of the top four to date when the hammer goes down. Froome has the strongest team in the race, and he should have Mikel Landa to cover moves, so he is in the box seat. However …

Related: Michael Matthews still dreaming despite untimely Tour de France toilet break | Kieran Pender

Related: Chris Froome holds on to yellow jersey as Bauke Mollema wins stage 15

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/17/tour-de-france-final-week-galibier

Jul 16

Tour de France diary: Arnaud Démare’s men go down with their captain

Chris Froome and Sky duck the press; the legend of Tom Simpson is marked in style; things get grizzly in Foix; and red wine joins pasta and a penknife as Tour goodies

It is 22 years since four members of the same team were eliminated on the same stage: Lotto, stage nine to La Plagne. Such is the fate of the stage-four winner, Arnaud Démare, suffering from stomach troubles and unable to eat solid food. With him go three of his team-mates who have tried to nurse him through the stage. “You don’t leave a leader all alone in the countryside,” says Mickaël Delage. “He wins for us, so we lose together.” No coincidence that they ride for FDJ, run by the most traditional manager in cycling, Marc Madiot; this is old-school stuff, domestiques sinking with their leader. It’s none the worse for that.

Related: Chris Froome takes yellow off Fabio Aru as Michael Matthews wins Tour stage

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/16/tour-de-france-diary-arnaud-demare-chris-froome-tom-simpson

Jul 09

Tour de France diary: How roundabout spill paid off for a British photographer

The memorable image of the second-stage pile-up on the road to Liège involving Chris Froome was a happy accident for freelance snapper Chris Auld

The picture of the week: Sunday’s pile-up on a wet roundabout 30km from Liège, a chaotic heap of riders, all arms, legs and scared faces, sliding across a sodden road towards a traffic island. It’s the work of the British freelance Chris Auld, who is covering the Tour from a camper van, and owes something to sheer situational fluke: Auld just happened to stop here because it was the last place where he could get in a shot and still see the finish. By Monday, it is viral, with memes including one in which Romain Bardet, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas et al are superimposed on to Géricault’s Raft of the Medusa. As an image, it ranks with a French photographer’s capturing of Djamolidine Abdoujaparov mid-flight as he fell on the Champs-Élysées in 1991, or John Pierce’s shot of Bernard Hinault, Guido van Calster and Eddy Planckaert launching the sprint in perfect synchrony at Zolder in 1981. The latter stemmed from sheer luck as well as skill; Pierce was not allowed into the finish, so he stood at 300m to go to land the shot of his career.

Related: Tour de France 2017: Marcel Kittel wins stage two, Thomas stays in yellow – as it happened

Related: Mark Cavendish out of Tour and Peter Sagan disqualified after horror crash

Related: Kittel wins Tour de France stage seven after photo-finish with Boasson Hagen

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/09/tour-de-france-2017-diary-chris-froome-peter-sagan

Jul 09

Tour has missed a chance to honour Tom Simpson by not going up Mont Ventoux | William Fotheringham

Remembering the British rider who died on the climb 50 years ago would show the Tour can accept both sides of its past without condoning

As one cycles up Mont Ventoux, the 2,110m high “Giant of Provence”, impressions pile on another like the limestone boulders that make up the summit of the “bald mountain”: the heat, the gradient, the views; the lack of hairpins on what is largely a straight road up a mountainside, the moonscape after leaving the treeline; the sweat in one’s face, the ache in legs and feet and backside – and the energy gel wrappers.

Looking at the road as one tries to keep turning the pedals, one passes the wrappers one by one – at a rough guess there is an average of one per 10 or 20 metres. That is a very large number of gels, a heck of a lot of energy taken in and expended through the pedals. Many, many cyclists ride up this mountain and clearly they do not have very tidy habits.

Related: Brave call over Peter Sagan casts F1 in poor light over Sebastian Vettel | Richard Williams

Related: Philippa York: ‘I’ve known I was different since I was a five-year-old’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/09/tour-de-france-tom-simpson-death-50-years-mont-ventoux-cycling

Jul 06

Philippa York: ‘I’ve known I was different since I was a five-year-old’

The first high-profile cyclist to go public about making the step of gender transition, has put her life as Robert Millar behind her

‘“Being blessed with a talent doesn’t proscribe you from having to deal with all the other stuff that life brings,” says Philippa York when asked about the transition process from being the cyclist Robert Millar.

“It always amazed me that somehow people, fans, whoever thought that because you could ride, run or jump faster then you never had any of the issues that ordinary people had or will have.” And there in a nutshell is why her story matters: it is about much, much more than sport.

Related: Kittel pips Démare in stage six sprint finish as Froome retains Tour lead

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/06/philippa-york-gender-transition-cyclist-robert-millar

Jul 05

Tour de France will miss Peter Sagan’s star power but safety must come first | William Fotheringham

The Tour has lost its two biggest personalities in one crash but even if Sagan did not mean to fell Mark Cavendish, sprinters have raced on the edge for too long

Peter Sagan’s exclusion from the Tour de France for putting Mark Cavendish into the barriers close to the finish line at Vittel was the highest profile disqualification from the Tour de France since the entire Festina team were sent home in 1998 amidst one of the biggest doping scandals in the history of cycling.

Given Sagan’s profile and the fact he was likely to take the overall green jersey for a record sixth consecutive year, it was a huge decision and one which merits the intense debate around it.

Related: Mark Cavendish out of Tour and Peter Sagan disqualified after horror crash

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jul/05/tour-de-france-peter-sagan-cavendish-star-power

Jul 02

Chris Froome braced for early test of Tour de France prospects on ‘the Plank’ | William Fotheringham

The short but nasty climb at the finish of Wednesday’s fifth stage has pedigree when it comes to deciding who will wear the yellow jersey in Paris

In the past, it used to be said that whoever led the Tour de France at L’Alpe d’Huez would win overall. In recent years, something similar could be stated of the Alsatian climb to La Planche des Belles Filles, nicknamed “Le Petit Alpe d’Huez” by cyclists who struggle up there each year in the Trois Ballons sportive, and climbed by the Tour at the finish of Wednesday’s fifth stage.

Related: German Grand Départ may be an omen for tightest Tour de France in 28 years | William Fotheringham

Related: Vincenzo Nibali regains yellow jersey as Alberto Contador crashes out

Related: Mont Ventoux casts shadow on 2017 Tour de France despite absence from route | Richard Williams

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jul/02/tour-de-france-2017-chris-froome-fifth-stage-the-plank-belles-filles

Jun 29

Simon Yates: ‘I do consider myself a grand tour GC rider. It is the pinnacle’

The British rider believes this year’s route and last year’s Vuelta performance leave him well-placed to make his mark at the 2017 Tour de France

Distinguishing between the 24-year-old Yates twins, Simon and Adam, is a matter of nuance. Simon wins slightly more often than Adam. Adam talks slightly less than Simon. Adam usually has a stubbly beard, Simon is clean shaven. Simon was on the Great Britain academy and raced track in his formative years, Adam was not and specialised in road racing. Adam has finished higher than Simon in a grand tour, having come fourth in last year’s Tour de France, while Simon came sixth in the Tour of Spain.

Related: Tour de France 2017: stage-by-stage guide

Related: Tour de France 2017: full team-by-team guide

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/29/simon-yates-tour-de-france

Jun 29

Tour de France 2017: stage-by-stage guide

This year’s race is bookended by big-city time trials, while ‘French flats’, short and sharp moutain stages, plus a finish on the Col d’Izoard all stand out

Robert Millar’s team-by-team guide to the 2017 Tour

Related: Tour de France 2017: full team-by-team guide

Related: Dave Brailsford defends Team Sky credibility and says ‘I’m going nowhere’

Related: Life after Lance: why America may not need a new US Tour de France champion

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/29/tour-de-france-2017-stage-by-stage-guide

Jun 25

Chris Froome: This Tour de France route is biggest challenge of my career

The three-times Tour de France winner feels fresh and is not perturbed by his failure to win the Critérium du Dauphiné

Chris Froome is certain he is on track to contend for a fourth Tour de France victory next month despite his not managing to win the Critérium du Dauphiné, traditionally his warm-up race for La Grande Boucle. The Team Sky leader won the eight-day race in France each time before his Tour victories in 2013, 2015 and 2016 but this year could finish only fourth to the Dane Jakob Fuglsang.

“I’m not the superstitious type, to think that winning the Dauphiné is a precursor to winning the Tour,” Froome says. “It’s certainly good for the morale and the confidence to win your last race before the Tour but I don’t think it’s a prerequisite.”

Related: Chris Froome’s Tour de France win puts him among greats | William Fotheringham

Related: Chris Froome wins third Tour de France in Paris – as it happened

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/jun/25/chris-froome-tour-de-france-biggest-challenge-career

Jun 24

Chris Froome’s Tour de France rivals? Porte, Quintana, Contador and Bardet | Wlliam Fotheringham

A three-times winner who might not be quite what he was, a route that offers something for everyone and high-quality contenders may produce a spectacular

When a three-times Tour de France winner is on the start line in anything resembling a decent state of fitness, forecasts boil down to a simple statement: one man versus the rest. Thus it was with Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, Miguel Indurain and Lance Armstrong – now disgraced, once perennially dominant – and so it is with Chris Froome, who starts the Tour as the overwhelming favourite, even though he has not yet shown the incisive form of his better years.

There is always speculation that the sheer weight of opposing numbers will one day overcome the counterweight of incumbency but it tends to be wishful thinking. Each of those contenders has his own priorities and the immense importance of the Tour induces a risk-benefit analysis: the favourites weigh up what they have to lose with what they might have to gain and all too frequently it is the former that consumes them.

Related: Chris Froome: I have never been offered triamcinolone at Team Sky | William Fotheringham

Related: Wheels have not come off cycling’s boom despite elite holes in the road

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2017/jun/24/chris-froome-tour-de-france-rivals-porte-quintana-contador-bardet

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