Sky physio Dan Guillemette explains that specific exercises help keep Chris Froome's back problems under control

Chris Froome’s lingering back injury continues to be an issue for the Tour de France champion, but he is keeping it in check with specific exercises so that it does not pose a problem when he starts the Tour in July.

“If he wasn’t focused and professional, then chances are, his problem could’ve come back again,” team Sky’s lead physiotherapist, Dan Guillemette told Cycling Weekly. “The issues resolved now, he hasn’t had symptoms since before Tirreno-Adriatico.”

Froome called off the Giro di Lombardia last autumn and Tirreno-Adriatico this spring due to his back and over the winter, had to go to a therapy centre in South Africa to help correct the problem coming from his left sacroiliac joint.

He dropped everyone and kept Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) behind on Monday thanks to hours of training and attention to his back. Guillemette and the centre taught him exercises to keep the issue away.

“He has a maintenance programme. He focuses on areas that he needs to work on more. He has exercises that target muscles around that [left] side and the other side, to keep a balance.

“Could it prevent a Tour win? Yeah. It’s like any elite athlete, if you don’t rehabilitate yourself effectively… You have to get them to buy into muscle training ahead of time for those prevalent problem areas.”

Following a disappointing World Championship road race and due to the back problem at the end of last season, Froome cancelled his plans to race Lombardia. After winning the Tour of Oman in February, the problem “flared up” and forced him to withdraw from the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race in March.

The exercises were not enough. Guillemette went to Monaco to visit Froome, analysed his bike position and made adjustments. He lowered his saddle by two to three millimetres and moved it forward slightly.

“He had an acute flare up, which is why I flew to Monaco. [Adjusting the bike position is] not the first thing to do, but you have to look at how they interact with the bike.

“We tweaked the saddle, initially by five millimetres, but he said that it just felt too low. We found a happy medium. We off-loaded the injured area.”

Guillemette explained that this problems comes from overuse and physical demands, and flares up when put under pressure for the first time after a rest. Froome, he said, is “acutely aware” of the problem and managing it to be in shape for the Tour de France.

  • Dave2020

    “I still think I can get much better. I’m obviously a decent climber but there are things I can do to improve. I’m not the smoothest rider. I’m all elbows and knees.” Froome said. “So, I can work on improving my position on the bike.”

    I agree with what you say, Chris, but does your physio’ know how to improve your position? He evidently doesn’t understand the biomechanics of pedalling. ‘Smooth’ is certainly the answer. All that extraneous movement is evidence of energy going to waste, which also causes an excessive isometric tension in the lower back. That’s the problem. Treating the symptoms won’t effect a cure.

    “He lowered his saddle by 2-3mm and moved it forward slightly.” It was a deeply flawed analysis, because those adjustments are “the opposite of what is required”. Froome needs to raise his saddle a little and set it a lot further back, over time. (or at least sit on it as it’s designed to be used. i.e. NOT on-the-rivet.) He will then be in a position to start learning to pedal smoothly, in circles, at the cadence he’s clearly capable of.