Speak CC vs Chris Froome
The rain lashed down in New South Wales, Australia, on the weekend as Speak’s client services director Paul geared up for the L’Étape Australia – a road cycling event that stretches over 157km and includes a 1300m climb.
With little more than a thin layer of Lycra to keep the weather at bay over many hours of riding, it was going to be a tough day in the saddle.
Many might have been tempted to give up on the idea and stay in bed (in fact, many competitors did). But Paul and his team-mates – Speak CC ringers James and Chris – hauled themselves to the start-line.
That gritty determination (or weary resignation to fate) paid off with an unexpected encounter.
About 40km into the challenge, surrounded by the scenic Snowy Mountains, Paul sensed another rider steadily approaching from behind. Peering through his rain-soaked glasses, he realised he was in the presence of none other than four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome.
Shrugging off initial concerns that he might be having a hypothermia-induced hallucination, he recalls: “As I looked round I saw Froome coming up behind me on the hill. There was no one else with him so I said hello – and he seemed to be more than happy to ride alongside me and chat for a while.”
The few minutes that followed put Paul’s decades of communications experience to the ultimate test, as he attempted to keep up with the world champion cyclist while trying to breathe and talk at the same time. Not easy when you’re dying inside.
As Froome coasted along, Paul put down the power just to keep pace for that short section of climb – and did his best to make conversation. “I asked him about his plans for next year and he told me he was targeting three grand tours. It was great to chat to Chris, but after a couple of hundred metres I realised that if I rode at his pace much longer I’d burn myself out – and probably struggle to finish the race at all!
“So I let him ride off, happy to have had the briefest moment with the greatest cyclist in the world to distract from the awful weather. He disappeared into the distance, and I slowed down to a more bearable pace ...”
Chris Froome 1. Speak Media 0.
Although, understandably, Paul couldn’t quite keep pace in the hills with the Tour de France champion, fellow Speak CC rider Chris McGowan fared a little better in the sprint section of the race. There was almost nothing between the two with our Chris timing a mere fifth of a second slower than Team Sky’s. Let’s call it a draw, shall we, Mr Froome?