By Jonny Long
After being involved in the stage one pile-up and finishing 14 minutes adrift on stage one of the Tour de France 2021, Chris Froome had a late night at the hospital getting checked over, so late his Israel Start-Up Nation team started to worry.
"Yesterday I was really worried," Israel Start-Up Nation sports director Rik Verbrugghe told Cycling Weekly and other English-speaking press before the start of stage two.
"They came back late from the hospital, but when I saw him I had a much better feeling and [after seeing him] this morning. We will need a few days for [the ramifications of the crash] to pass... But let's hope that on the bike, everything is okay."
Luckily, Froome landed on the other leg to the one injured in his Critérium du Dauphiné crash in 2019, although Verbrugghe was concerned when he found Froome on the floor in the aftermath of the stage one crash with a big bruise on his leg.
Froome immediately asked to get back on the bike, so Verbrugghe helped him stand up and check he could do that, and once he was upright that he was good to resume.
Before the start of stage two, the team put him on the rollers to warm-up and he was dropped just before the start of the first ascent of the Mûr-de-Bretagne, eventually finishing 11-21 down on the stage winner Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Fenix).
Verbrugghe revealed that they knew Froome wasn't at the level required to contest the yellow jersey at the Tour de Romandie in April.
"We started with the UAE Tour where he was not at the level," Verugghe said. "I mean, he was okay but the UAE Tour is also a pretty easy race. But then after Catalunya he did an altitude camp and there we expected him to make some steps up, which he did, but small ones, and they're all really small.
"We saw then that it would be difficult to get back on track. When we continue to work on the solution, then continue working hard, and get him back on track. That if it's for the Tour or even later, he'll still be better at the Tour. But he can go faster."
Now, they will try to keep Froome making these small steps up towards where his form used to be, and hope the "real Chris Foome" will represent the team at the Vuelta a España later this year.
"He is not 100 per cent ready for the Tour," Verbrugghe admits, even before Saturday's crash set him further back. "But he is okay. I expect from him that he will first pass through this first week, because that's the most important, but he will progress into the Tour and make some further steps into the Tour, small ones, but maybe we will see a good Chris Froome in the last week.
"The main goal is actually he needed this Tour de France to get better and stronger. And then hopefully we have a real Chris Froome at the start of the Vuelta."
There are so many big questions surrounding Chris Froome and these last few years he'll spend in the peloton. The big one, that Verbrugghe poses but can't answer, is whether the four-time Tour winner can even compete with the new, strong generation coming through.
"Now, if the best level from Chris Froome ever is enough to compete with these young guys that are now on top at the Tour. That's a question mark."
Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races. I'm 6'0", 26 years old, have a strong hairline and have an adequate amount of savings for someone my age. I'm very single at the minute so if you know anyone, hit me up.
Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab, reporting about students evacuating their bowels on nightclub dancefloors and consecrating their love on lecture hall floors. I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).
I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.
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