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Chris Froome‘s “light at the end of the tunnel” after breaking his leg and not racing for six months is an attempt at a record fifth Tour de France victory.
Froome crashed while training for the Critérium du Dauphiné time trial on June 12 and underwent surgeries and rehabilitation to walk and ride properly again. His drive now: the Tour de France starting on June 27 in Nice.
“I definitely won’t be ready to take on the Giro d’Italia 100%,” Froome said in a podcast hosted by his Ineos teammates Luke Rowe and Geraint Thomas.
“I think logically the Tour makes a lot of sense and obviously for my own ambitions, trying to go for number five, the record is a big goal. The two kind of align in that sense.
“That’s the driving force for me, that’s the light at the end of the tunnel, to get to the Tour in my best shape again. That’s definitely helped in the tough times, the times in the wheelchair, I was thinking, ‘I’ve got to do these exercises and I’ve got to get to that point.’ The big goal is getting ready for the Tour next year.”
If Froome were to win a fifth title he would equal the record held by Jacques Anquetil, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx, and Miguel Indurain.
He won the Tours in 2013, 2015, 2016, and 2017. His teammates Thomas and Egan Bernal won in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
In the crash, Froome fractured his right femur, elbow and ribs. He began riding again in September and looked ready to return at the Saitama Criterium, October 27, but decided it wasn’t the best. Since, he underwent another surgery to have some of the metal screws that were holding his bones in place removed.
“It’s been a tough old six months but I think I’m pretty lucky all things considered that it wasn’t worse, it wasn’t more serious,” he continued.
“I got back on the bike yesterday [December 2] officially for the first time since my second operation [November 8] to remove some of the metalwork, so hopefully there’s no going back now and hopefully everything I do will be towards the Tour next year.
“We’ll see how it all goes, step-by-step. The first thing is just getting back on the bike and then trying to work on some of the weaknesses. Obviously that right leg hasn’t been working properly for six months, it’s quite weak and needs a lot of work.”
The Brit, 34, has been training around his home base in Monaco. He even explained how recently on a group ride, he found a kitten in the cold and put him under his jersey, riding one hour home with him. He and his family named him Dolce.
— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) December 4, 2019
The rides have underscored the “daunting” goal he is trying to achieve.
“But having said that, it’s also been quite daunting having that as a goal,” he added. “Getting back on the bike for the first time was amazing, it was really cool to be out on the road again but it also highlighted to me just how far away from Tour de France-winning shape I am. I’ve lost six months and it’s going to take me a good few months to get back there.”
Froome revealed just how hard he has been working to stay balanced, not favoring his left leg too much, and keep his form and position. His famous position, he joked, is still the same with elbows out and head down.
“Even though I haven’t been on the bike, we’ve been working hard to keep the form I ride the same, I haven’t got into any bad habits. My head is still down, that didn’t get fixed in the crash!” he said.
“There was definitely a period where it looked pretty bizarre. I was still on crutches, I couldn’t walk 100% on my own, but I’d get over to my bike and ride off. I looked fine riding, but people would be shocked to see that because I couldn’t even walk at that time.”
Another Grand Tour star, Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), is also returning after a crash in May ruled him out for most of the year. He raced for the first time on Sunday in a mountain bike event. He switched teams to Jumbo-Visma this winter and, like Froome, will aim to return to the top in the Giro d’Italia or Tour de France.