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Froome, a four-time winner of the Tour, is still fighting back to fitness after his career-threatening crash in 2019, but is struggling to find his old form.
On the Tour’s first rest day, Froome sits in 153rd place overall in the general classification, around 20 seconds behind pure sprinter Cavendish.
Cavendish, who has recently achieved his own phenomenal comeback at the Tour de France against the odds, has said that no-one can understand the mindset of a champion: “I can talk from personal experience, you can’t write somebody off. It’s down to an individual how long they want to do something.
“Chris Froome has been a champion for many years and there’s very few people in the world who get to be that level of a champion.
“So people will not understand the mindset.”
Froome suffered multiple serious injuries during a fall on the time trial stage of the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné, including a broken femur.
He returned to the peloton in 2020 but has been battling back to fitness ever since.
Against the odds, Froome was selected to ride the Tour de France for Israel Start-Up Nation in support of team leader Mike Woods, but suffered another set back when he crashed hard on the opening day of the race.
Cavendish’s comeback, meanwhile, is complete after he fought through illness, injury, mental health problems and fearing for the end of his career to win two stages of the 2021 Tour so far and holding the green jersey at the end of the first week.
The 36-year-old sprinter with Deceuninck - Quick-Step said: “There will always be people that can never understand what it’s like to be as successful [as Froome].
“Froome is a friend of mine, but even if it’s somebody I don’t like, if I saw somebody suffer, not just mentally but physically, to try and get back to where they were, I applaud it.
“It’s the strongest thing you can do.”
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