After the 1-07-minute loss in Abruzzo – the same region where Bradley Wiggins crashed in his 2013 Giro ride – Team Sky‘s star has vowed to keep fighting over the coming two weeks. He has a rest day tomorrow, a time trial and some serious high-alpine passes ahead in the next two weeks.
“No, it was brutal,” Froome said of the struggle up the final of the 26.45km climb. “If you have a bad day, that’s what happens at the Giro. I knew that coming into the race.”
The race finished at 2135 metres above sea level, next to the hotel that served as dictator Benito Mussolini’s prison for a brief spell in 1943. It was not a place for celebration for Froome either, where he took stock of the race’s first phase before taking the ski lift down.
Froome crashed ahead of the race’s opening time trial then hit the deck again on stage eight. Those days probably affected him, leading to his current 11th place position at 2-27 minutes back behind leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) after nine stages.
“I was having a tough, tough day. I’ve definitely had a rough start to this Giro,” Froome continued. “I was just trying hang on as best I could, obviously make it to the rest day tomorrow and then revaluate the position from there.”
Team boss David Brailsford said that Froome was affected by the crash in Jerusalem and ahead of stage nine, sports director Nicolas Portal explained that the stage eight crash was not as bad as the one on the first day.
With those together, and with the immediate media attention due to his asthma drug case, the pressure seemed to be building in the Sky camp.
Watch: Giro d’Italia stage nine highlights
“I’ve had a hard time, for sure. It hasn’t been just the one crash, I crashed in Jerusalem before the race even started so I was already on the back foot there,” Froome said.
“But this is the Giro. I mean, we’ve seen the race turn completely on its head in the past. I’m going to keep the morale up, keep fighting. There’s still a lot of really hard racing to come. Today was a taste of just what we’ve got to expect in the second half of the Giro.”
The consecutive high mountain passes begin next weekend and continue through the end of the third week with some brief breaks. One such flat day will be next Tuesday’s 34.2km time trial, when Froome and 2017 victor Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) will try to get time back on Yates.
“It’s obviously not the ideal situation to be in, having lost a big chunk of time today. But that’s bike racing. I just have to look ahead now, keep fighting, keep doing the best we can and just take it one day at a time,” Froome said.
“The team’s really supported me well and, yeah, I’ve got to stay optimistic now.
“We’ve still got a time trial ahead, we’ve still got the mountains. Orica have ridden an amazing race, really congratulations to Simon and Esteban. They’ve ridden a fantastic race so far and fully deserve to be in the position they’re in at the moment.”
Since his first Tour de France win in 2013, Froome has ridden high in cycling’s Grand Tours. The only big hit was when he fell multiple times in the 2014 Tour de France and abandoned early on due to fractures.