Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome will join fast-growing cycling team Israel Start-Up Nation for the start of next season after losing his status as the leader of Team Ineos.
Froome’s contract with Ineos expires in December and the team has decided not to renew it, ending their decade-long association.
“Given his achievements in the sport,” Ineos general manager Dave Brailsford said Thursday, “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.”
Without mentioning Team Ineos riders Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal — the winners of the last two Tours, respectively — by name, Brailsford said Froome’s departure gives “other members of our team the leadership opportunities they too have earned and are rightly seeking.”
Hours after the announcement by Ineos, Israel Start-Up Nation said Froome had joined on a multi-year deal, adding he will wear the team’s “blue and white until the end of his illustrious career.”
“This is an historic moment for ISN, Israel, Israeli sports, our many fans all around the world and, of course, for me personally — a moment of enormous pride,” said the team’s co-owner, Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams.
Israel Start-Up Nation has grown rapidly since it was established in 2014, gaining access to the World Tour after merging with the now-defunct Katusha-Alpecin team in October.
It will compete in its first Tour de France this year when the delayed edition begins in Nice on Aug. 29.
The team said Froome would help it enter the next phase of its growth.
“With his impressive achievements, Chris Froome is the perfect leader to mark our arrival as a serious contender for these races, particularly the Tour de France,” team manager Kjell Carlstrom said.
Israel hosted the first three stages of the 2018 Giro d’Italia, the first time a Grand Tour race was ever held outside Europe. The race was eventually won by Froome.
The 35-year-old Froome has fought his way back from career-threatening injuries sustained in a high-speed crash last year, but tensions over team leadership has sparked weeks of speculation concerning his future at Ineos and suggestions he could leave mid-season.
Brailsford acknowledged the announcement about Froome was being made to put an end to the speculation.
“I am excited about the talent we have right across the team at the current time,” Brailsford said.
Froome joined Team Ineos in 2010 — when it was called Team Sky — for their inaugural season, developing from a somewhat awkward domestique into the finest Grand Tour rider of his generation.
He won the Tour de France in 2013, ’15, ’16 and ’17, has also won the Spanish Vuelta (in 2011 and ’17) and the Giro d’Italia (2018).
Froome will sign his deal with the Israeli team on Aug. 1.
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Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80