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The Times and TuttoBici both reported Thursday that the four-time Tour de France is close to accepting a contract to join the newly elevated WorldTour team in 2021. The Times also reported that Team Ineos owner Jim Ratcliffe has not countered an offer estimated at $5 million per season, and that Froome could leave the team by August 1.
When contacted by VeloNews, Team Ineos only stated that “we don’t comment on speculation or rider contracts.” There has been no statement from Froome.
Officials from Israel Start-Up Nation also refused to comment, saying, “We never comment on interest or negotiations. But, certainly we respect Chris Froome as a rider and as a person, and his past accomplishments speak for themselves.”
Froome, 35, sees his contract with Team Ineos, which he joined under the Team Sky banner in 2010, conclude at the end of 2020. Froome was reportedly unhappy that he would not be seeing full support in the Tour this year following a return from serious injury suffered during a fall at last year’s Critérium du Dauphiné.
Team Sky / Ineos has won seven of the past eight editions of the Tour de France, with four different riders from 2012 to 2019. Froome won four yellow jerseys (2013, 2015-17), and is poised to join the Tour’s “five-win club” if he can win one more. Geraint Thomas, a winner in 2018, and last year’s defending champion Egan Bernal are also insisting on their chances at Team Ineos.
Israel Start-Up Nation, backed by Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams, has emerged as one of the most likely suitors if Froome did leave his longtime home at Team Ineos. Other teams have expressed interest, while others say they are developing their own talent.
Team Bahrain-McLaren was considered an early candidate for Froome’s signature, however team boss Rod Ellingworth ruled them out of the running for an imminent signing.
“The mid-season transfer has nothing to do with us,” Ellingworth told VeloNews last week. “I’ve spoken to Chris and I’ve not hid away from the fact we’ve spoken to him. But it was part of a general chat – there’s nothing more to say on that the moment.”