Chris Froome: Being competitive at Tour de France would be a 'dream scenario'

The Israel-Premier Tech rider on being back at his normal level, appreciating his past, and aiming to have form late into the season

Chris Froome
Chris Froome pulling on the front at the Tour of the Alps
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It has been a long way back for Chris Froome. The four-time Tour de France winner has been on a journey back to his normal level ever since the horror crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2019.

The Israel-Premier Tech rider is still aiming to ride the Tour this summer though, describing being competitive there again as the "dream scenario".

Froome has not achieved a top ten finish in any race since the Tour of the Alps in 2019, which he is back at this year. In that time, we have seen Tadej Pogačar and Primož Roglič emerge at the top of the sport, and travelled through almost an entire pandemic.

After his move from Ineos to his new team at the end of 2020, he rode a full calendar last year, but failed to live up to his own exacting standards, riding mostly anonymously.

His 2022 had an aborted start to this season after suffering a knee injury, meaning his first race was Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali at the end of March. 

However, speaking to Cycling Weekly, Cyclingnews and Wielerflits at the Tour of the Alps, the 36-year-old said he had "overcome a lot of hurdles" and that there was "nothing really holding me back now".

"I'm generally pretty happy with how things are going at the moment," Froome said. "I can take a lot of positives out of this I think. Positives from the start of this year, I can really see a lot of response from my body to the training loads, to everything. I feel as if my body is responding differently to how it was last year. I've overcome a lot of hurdles.

"Basically I've got the all clear now, I've got nothing really holding me back now. I can get fully engrossed in the training side of things now, I mean that's a side that I'm familiar with, I've been doing that for years. That's the side that I'm actually looking forward to now these next few months and see where I can get to."

Chris Froome

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Froome joined Israel-Premier Tech after 11 years at Team Sky/Ineos, during which he won two Vueltas a España, a Giro d'Italia, and four Tours, alongside multiple other titles.

When he signed for the team, his contract was described as "long-term" and it was said that he would ride for the squad "until the end of his career."

At the Tour of the Alps, Froome has attracted attention, as a seven-time Grand Tour rider would, but has also impressed himself; his 41st place on stage two was probably the most impressive ride on a hard stage he has done since his injury, certainly since joining Israel-Premier Tech.

"To be there when there are 25/30 guys left in the bunch on the climbs, that's not a feeling I've had for a long time," he said. "It shows that the training I'm doing is actually paying off. Obviously I had a bit of a late start to the year.

"I had a bit of a setback in January, so I am still a bit behind in terms of form and race prep and everything else. I'm pretty light on racing this year, I only had Coppi e Bartali until now, other guys have done Paris-Nice, Catalunya, Tirreno."

The Briton said that now he no longer really had any "residual pain or any residual issues from the crash", which will be a relief for him and his team.

"The power balance, left/right, that's all good now," Froome explained. "Now it's purely about doing the work, getting the hard yards in, getting the power up, getting the weight down, the same story as always in terms of getting back to form.

"That's a big relief. This first period from Coppi e Bartali until now I've seen a really good progression in terms of the response from my body. I'm pretty happy now."

Speaking after Coppi e Bartali, Froome said on his YouTube channel that he was looking to lose some weight ahead of the Tour of the Alps next week, so this is clearly something that is still occupying him.

His YouTube channel, launched at the beginning of this year, has been a way for him to connect to the public in a direct way, and he has been reasonably unfiltered.

"I interact more on social media now and even do videos on YouTube," Froome said. "I've been racing and winning the big races for many years but people said they didn’t know me because I shielded myself. 

"I've made more of an effort to be more open and show who I am as a person. I've enjoyed that process too. I’m mature enough to recognise what to listen to and what not to listen, on social media and in the media. I’m happy doing my own thing and sharing the journey I'm on now."

Chris Froome

Chris Froome with former teammate, and fellow Tour de France winner, Geraint Thomas this year

(Image credit: Getty Images)

While Froome seems less guarded than his days at the very top of the sport, he and his team are still very careful about how much he speaks about the future, because he is still on the journey back.

However, he confirmed that his programme would include the Tour de Romandie next week, and then either the Tour de Suisse or the Dauphiné in June. This hints at a progression towards the Tour, something he was less specific about.

"I think it all depends on how everything goes on this next month and a half," he said. "I think that would be a final test to see if I'm ready to go back into a race like the Tour de France.

"Obviously, that would be the dream scenario for me. To get back into the Tour and be competitive again. But, there are lots of steps that need to come before that."

His slow start to the year has given him the confidence that he might be able to continue his form late into the season, later than if he was already at his peak already.

"I'm definitely taking a bigger picture approach to the season," he explained. "I'm looking to have a very active summer. Keep racing late into this year. It has been a slow start but I like the way things are heading now.

"I certainly saw in previous years when I haven't had any setbacks or issues, getting up to peak form later I've been able to hold it longer into the season. I think previously, thinking back to earlier years in my career, when I've been flying in February/March I have struggled to hold onto it past the Tour de France.

"Whereas, taking a slower approach now hopefully I'll be able to hold onto that level until the end of the season."

Chris Froome

Chris Froome wins the Tour de France in 2017

(Image credit: Getty Images)

It is clearly very important for Froome and his team to manage expectations, and not get too carried away with predicted the level that he will be able to be at. The weight of being one of the riders of the last decade clearly creates pressure, however much he tries to manage it.

"You can never keep everyone happy," Froome laughed. "If people have expectations, they'll always judge you on your last performance, not what you achieved during your career."

However, his setbacks have given him a new perspective on those years of success, 2011-2018.

"Looking back at the years where I was winning Grand Tour after Grand Tour, especially when you are in that moment, in that frame of mind, it's difficult to fully appreciate how fortunate you are," he said.

"Now being away from it after the crash, I've had time to reflect on that. I realise I was really fortunate and privileged to have those opportunities.

"In that moment there's a lot of buzz about it but you don't fully appreciate it. Now looking from the other side, I know how difficult it is to get everything 100%, to be in the mindset and physical position to fight for the victory. To be at 100%, to have everything in place, is not normal. It really is a privilege."

It's a second chance for Froome post his crash, even if he has not quite made it back to the top yet.

He told Procycling magazine last year: "I genuinely feel as if I’ve been given a second chance now, I’ve been given a second chance to come back to the highest level of professional cycling. I’m just so grateful for it. 

"I mean a lot of people see the whole crash as a negative…yes, it is a negative, it took me back a long way. But at the same time it’s tested me, tested my motivation, my love for the sport."

He aims to still get back to the elite level, to be a top rider, he insists, despite the fact he will turn 37 next month.

"The goal is to try to get back to that kind of level," he said "But there are so many small things that you take for granted, that just help you to be in that position.

"After all your Grand Tour victories, you’re already thinking about the next goal. You are never in the moment celebrating and enjoying it, maybe for a few hours but then you’re straight onto the next goal. It's strange but you only fully appreciate it years afterwards."

Whatever the end, it is clear that Froome does not want to give up, and is still fighting hard for his future in cycling. As he said, he knows where he is at now, and if he can train like he used to, perhaps there is no reason to believe he can be as good as he used to. 

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