Dave Brailsford has said that Chris Froome’s departure from Team Ineos at the end of this season has come about because the team was unable to guarantee him “sole team leadership” at this point in his career.
Ineos confirmed on Thursday morning that Froome will leave when his contract expires at the end of this season. The four-time Tour de France winner will join Israel Start-Up Nation in 2021, though he reiterated his intention to ride the 2020 Tour with Ineos, whose line-up will include defending champion Egan Bernal and 2018 winner Geraint Thomas.
“Chris’s current contract comes to an end in December and we have taken the decision now not to renew it. We are making this announcement earlier than would usually be the case to put an end to recent speculation and allow the team to focus on the season ahead,” Brailsford said in a statement released by Team Ineos.
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Cyclingnews revealed in May that Froome had discussed a mid-season transfer earlier this year, with Bahrain McLaren and Israel Start-Up Nation the proposed destinations. He will instead complete the season as an Ineos rider before linking up with Israel Start-Up Nation in 2021.
“Given his achievements in the sport, Chris is understandably keen to have sole team leadership in the next chapter of his career – which is not something we are able to guarantee him at this point. A move away from Team Ineos can give him that certainty,” Brailsford said.
“At the same time, it will also give other members of our team the leadership opportunities they too have earned and are rightly seeking.”
Speaking to Eurosport in May, Bernal said that the road would decide the Ineos hierarchy at the Tour, rescheduled for August 29-September 20, but he acknowledged that he would not "throw away another opportunity to win another Tour de France” by sacrificing himself in the service of Froome or Thomas from the outset. Froome missed Bernal's 2019 Tour victory after sustaining serious injury in a crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné. He returned to action at the UAE Tour in February.
Together with Thomas and Ian Stannard, Froome is one of three riders who have raced for Ineos (formerly Team Sky) every season since the squad’s inception in 2010. Froome made a dramatic emergence as a Grand Tour rider when he placed second to Juan José Cobo at the 2011 Vuelta a España, and he was awarded the overall victory last year after Cobo was belatedly sanctioned for doping offences.
Froome went on to place second behind Bradley Wiggins at the 2012 Tour before returning to win the race overall the following year. He won the Tour again in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and later added the 2017 Vuelta and 2018 Giro d’Italia to his palmarès.
He placed third overall behind Thomas at the 2018 Tour, which began just days after the UCI dropped anti-doping proceedings against Froome, who had returned elevated levels of salbutamol in a control on the 2017 Vuelta.
“Chris has been with us from the start,” Brailsford said. “He is a great champion and we have shared many memorable moments over the years, but I do believe this is the right decision for the team and for Chris.”