BROUGHTON HALL, England (VN) — Nothing will come easy for Chris Froome in these next three weeks, so why would the opening press gathering of his Tour de France defense be any different?
The defending champion addressed an array of questions on Wednesday evening in England, from his form after a hard crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné to the recent news of Daryl Impey’s (Orica-GreenEdge) positive doping test. Journalists even broached the matter of Bradley Wiggins (Sky), a past champion left off this year’s Sky Tour roster.
Perhaps most importantly for Froome, he said he’s recovered from a crash at the Dauphiné that rattled his hold on a race ultimately won by Garmin-Sharp’s Andrew Talansky.
“I’m more or less recovered. It definitely was a knock to me. It did take me a while to start feeling normal again on a bike after that crash,” he told reporters in Harrogate, England. “I’m confident that’s behind me now. I took quite a big knock to my left hip and there was a bit of underlying bruising there. I felt for the next week after the crash I just wasn’t quite pedaling as I normally would. It did take me a good week to get back into things, start seeing the same power readings as I would normally expect and be the normal me again.”
Froome said he was fresh coming into the Tour and that he regards the crash, or something like it, as a real danger in the coming three weeks. “It was definitely a reminder that anything can go wrong at any time, especially this first week of the Tour. It’s always a stressful environment being in the peloton over the first few days,” he said. “I think given Yorkshire’s narrow, twisting, undulating roads on the first couple of stages, it’s going to make for some pretty hairy racing.”
Froome will mount his defense against a strikingly on-form Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) without 2012 champion Wiggins on his team. Wiggins’ absence has been controversial here in Britain and further afield, but Froome maintains he didn’t make the call to leave Wiggins — with whom he has a rocky relationship — off the roster.
“Just to make it absolutely clear I do not have a role in selection,” he said. “I do speak to [Sky principal] Dave Brailsford about generally the group of guys I’ve been racing with, but if you look at how a Tour team is generally selected, the guys doing a Tour will be doing altitude camps together really quite early on in the season, racing together as a group … The guys who have been selected for the Tour, we really are a tight-knit group.”
Asked if he would have been uncomfortable with Wiggins on the team, Froome was uncertain.
“It would definitely change the dynamic of the team having Bradley on the team, but that’s bike racing, you’re not always going to be best friends with everyone on the team all the time,” Froome said. “I’ve said it before, at the end of the day we’re colleagues and we’re professionals. You look at what the job is at hand and you get on with that.”
Froome was also asked about doping — the sort of questions he routinely handles. Did his heart sink to see the news of Impey’s positive test for a banned diuretic, which was announced Wednesday?
“Definitely. For me personally, my integrity is extremely important to me, with the TUE case that came out a few weeks ago, that was something I really wanted to clear up and tell people my side of events,” he said. “With the Daryl Impey case coming out now a few days before the Tour, and the same with Roman Kreuziger a few days ago, it really is hard for the sport. It was quite shocking this morning to have the news about Daryl, someone I know really well. He’s been a teammate with me on Barloworld. It was quite shocking news … It’s always harder when you know the person on a personal level. It’s a reminder of just how cycling is in the spotlight. I mean, that is massive news in cycling, it’s right on the eve of the Tour, right when the spotlight is on cycling.”
As for the doping questions, they’re something that won’t go away, given the sport’s history and a cynical public and press. Froome is OK with that, it seems.
“… I do think it’s a good thing that we talk about it, that we put all of our cards on the table and we tell people how it is now. It is a shame that with cycling’s past we find ourselves in this situation now. But the only way we’re going to move on from it is to accept what has happened. Get it all out there. And then move on. Show people this is not how it’s done any more,” he said.
The Tour de France begins Saturday in Leeds.