Chris Froome's 2021 programme revealed

Froome's schedule has been picked as he plots a return to the Tour de France

Chris Froome's 2021 race programme, his first for new team Israel Start-Up Nation, has been revealed.

In an interview with Het Nieuwsblad, sports director Rik Verbrugghe outlines how the four-time Tour de France champion will warm-up for his return to the French Grand Tour, which he last lined up for in 2018.

"He will start in Portugal at the end of February, in the Volta ao Algarve. Then the Tour of Catalonia follows and Chris heads to the Tour via the Critérium du Dauphiné. Those are the broad outlines that are now established," Verbrugghe said.

Verbrugghe believes Froome is on his way back to his previous level, having struggled in 2020 and failing to register any significant results, finishing 98th overall in the Vuelta a España after not being selected for Ineos' Tour de France squad.

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"Due to the lockdown in Monaco in March last year and the distance with Ineos, his rehabilitation was not perfect. And suddenly the competition came," Verbrugghe offers as his explanation of Froome's disappointing 2020. "In the meantime, he has become so much stronger and he can again develop as much strength in the right as in the left leg."

It was Froome's right leg that bore the brunt of his crash during the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné, breaking his femur, as well as his elbow, sternum and back.

Froome has decided not to join up with his new team-mates for their first 2021 training camp in Girona, instead concentrating on his intense training and rehab programme in California.

As to whether a return to his previous best form will be enough to claim a fifth yellow jersey, Froome will have to prove himself against a new crop of talent that have burst onto the scene since his last Tour participation.

"The most important thing is that he returns to his old level with which he was able to win the Tour," Verbrugghe says. "There are now a lot of young guys who are knocking on the door very hard. It will be a very difficult thing to beat young wolves like Tadej Pogačar, Egan Bernal and soon Remco Evenepoel."

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