‘Mentally, Chris Froome is a force of nature’ – One year on from Tour de France star’s career-threatening crash

Looking back on an uncertain 12-months for Froome

Chris Froome in hospital (Photo courtesy of Team Ineos)

It seemed like a familiar moment in the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné – Team Ineos had announced that their leader Chris Froome would not be starting stage four after a crash.

Crashes and abandonments are fairly common in a top-tier race like the Dauphiné and even the favourites can find themselves on the tarmac.

News emerged on June 12, 2019 that Froome had fallen during a recon of the stage and had been forced to pull out of the race.

As a four-time Tour winner and the most successful British Grand Tour rider ever, Chris Froome pulling out of a race is always newsworthy, but Froome was riding the Dauphiné in preparation for the Tour de France a month later so pulling out didn’t necessarily raise any alarms bells for fans.

Team Ineos might just be being cautious, as they were when Geraint Thomas pulled out of the Tour de Suisse around the same time.

Rescue workers caring for Froome at the Dauphiné (Photo: ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT/AFP/Getty Images)
(Image credit: AFP/Getty Images)

But as Wout van Aert rode to his first WorldTour victory that day in Roanne, it emerged that Froome’s crash was much more significant that imagined.

By 7pm that night, the extent of Froome’s injuries had started to emerge - during the recon of the stage, Froome had taken a hand off the bars of his TT bike to blow his nose when he he was caught by a gust of wind.

He was carried into a low wall at 60+km/h, which left him in intensive care with multiple injuries, including a complex open fracture to his right femur, a broken right elbow and fractured ribs.

The seriousness of the crash immediately threw Froome’s 2019 Tour de France into doubt, with Team Ineos boss Sir Dave Brailsford very quickly announcing he would not be starting the Grand Tour, and the question became whether Froome would ever return to racing.

At 34, with nine years of WorldTour racing, and seven Grand Tour victories, it would take enormous physical and mental strain to compete again.

But six weeks after the crash Froome was already back on the indoor trainer, pedalling with one leg, and by August he had completed a few short track sessions.

It became clear that Froome was determined to race again.

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In February 2020 he made his comeback at the UAE Tour, and despite struggling to keep pace on a few stages he made it through the race (which was cut short due to coronavirus).

Froome said “he felt like a neo-pro” in his first race back, but his confidence was growing.

While it was still unclear whether Froome would be back to full fitness for the Tour de France in July, the coronavirus pandemic suddenly made the question irrelevant.

With the Tour now pushed back to August 29, Froome says he will by ready for the Grand Départ in Nice, not far from his home.

In interview with The Times newspaper, he said: “[Winning the Tour a fifth time] would be massive. It would definitely be one of the biggest comeback stories in sport.

“I think some people have written me off to an extent, I wouldn’t blame them at all.”

He added that his fitness is back to where it should be for this time of year, he just needs to find his top level to ensure he is capable of winning races once again.

A year on from his crash Froome reflected on the anniversary in a social media post, saying: “One year on from the biggest challenge of my career. I’m ready for what’s next – Le Tour number five.”

Froome also paid tribute to Professor Rémi Philippot, the orthopaedic surgeon at Saint-Étienne hospital that operated on Froome on the night of his crash.

Professor Philippot recently told French newspaper Le Progres: “Mentally, Froome is a force of nature.”

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Time will tell if Froome can get back to Grand Tour-winning ways, but it’s clear he has no plans to give up the bike yet.

“I don’t feel anyway close to retiring,” he said.

“I look forward to racing at least a few more seasons.”

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