Chris Froome says he felt like a neo-pro at his first race as he returns to racing after an eight-month layoff.
Froome finished in the peloton on the opening sprint stage, but says he still has a long way to go.
After finishing 115th in Dubai, the 34-year-old said: “There’s still a way to go until I’m back where I left off, but the first feelings are really good. It felt good to just have a number on, have the elbows out again and be fighting for position in the bunch. It feels good to be a bike racer again.”
Froome crashed at high speed during a recon of the time trial stage of the Dauphiné last June and was left in a critical condition with multiple injuries, including a badly broken femur.
After undergoing multiple injuries, Froome returned to training last August and began the long road to recovery, riding a full training camp with Team Ineos in Majorca in January.
On his racing return, he added: “[This morning] I felt really excited. It was like being a neo-pro again at my first race.
“It’s only eight months out but it feels like its longer. I know what condition I’m in and I’m not in winning condition.
“I should be in good enough condition to get through the race and do what I can for the team. I can’t set my expectations too high but just being here is a big goal for me.”
The UAE Tour is the first step in Froome’s return to racing as he has set himself the goal of starting the Tour de France later this year, in the hoping of winning a record-equalling fifth yellow jersey.