Chris Froome says his racing return is “feels like a second chance” as he rejoins the peloton this week.
The Brit suffered awful injuries in a crash during the Critérium du Dauphiné last summer and has only just recovered enough to make his comeback.
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The 34-year-old said: “It’s all I’ve thought about for months now – being back racing. It will be a huge relief just to be back in the peloton again.
“It feels like I’ve been given a second chance to come back to pro racing after a crash like that.
“I’m definitely not taking that for granted.”
Froome crashed a high-speed during a recon of the time trial stage in last year’s Dauphiné in June and was left in critical condition.
He suffered multiple fractures, including a broken femur and missed the rest of year.
After undergoing multiple operations, Froome returned to training in August and has been on the road to recovery since, riding a full training camp with Team Ineos in Majorca earlier this year.
He said: “It’s been exciting to see the progress week-on-week. I haven’t done much intensity yet but I’ve been doing a lot of volume – that’s the focus at the moment, trying to build up that base again.
“It’s been great to be back doing the normal sessions with the guys and actually being able to get through the workload again. I’ve still got to work on the strength of the leg which was injured but that’s already improving quickly.”
Froome’s only goal for the year is to line up at the start of the Tour de France this summer, where he hopes to fight for his fifth yellow jersey, which would put him on among the greats of the sport like Eddie Merckx and Bernard Hinault.
But first he has to find his race legs again in the seven-stage race in the Emirates.
Froome pulled out of the UAE Tour last year due to fatigue, after an intense racing and training period in Colombia in January and February.
On the UAE Tour, Froome said: “This is a great way for me to start my season. It should be a good place for me to test out my legs and get back in the peloton again.
“Hopefully I can do a job for the team and we can try and get the best result possible.”