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Giro d’Italia welcomes return of Chris Froome

MILAN (VN) — Chris Froome (Sky) missed the 2018 Giro d’Italia presentation Wednesday evening, but issued a short eight-second video instead. Froome confirmed his presence next May 4 to 27 with a short selfie video introduced onstage by RCS Sport cycling director Mauro Vegni. The Giro welcomed the return of a ‘big star’ who’d previously focused on only the Tour de France.

Froome said, “I’m looking forward to seeing you all on the start line of the 2018 Giro d’Italia.”

The Giro d’Italia welcomed Alberto Contador, Bradley Wiggins, and Lance Armstrong, but has not seen the commitment from a Tour star since perhaps the days of Miguel Indurain. Vegni, in the cold Milanese air outside the Rai Studios, said simply “complementi.”

RCS Sport’s coup means cycling’s star, winner of four Tours, including the Tour/Vuelta a España double in 2017, will bring attention and competition to the smaller grand tour. Vegni said that Froome and Sky deserve praise.

“Froome, he’s coming because he’s motivated, to be the only one to win three grand tours in a row. It’s great to have the big stars return to Giro again,” Vegni said to VeloNews.

“I think it’s important for the Giro d’Italia and for Froome that he’s decided to ride. It’s great for the race and will give even more international attention to it.”

Only cycling greats Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault won all three tours consecutively. Those were the days before 1995 when the Vuelta fell earlier in the year ahead of the Giro and Tour. Now the Vuelta attracts the big hitters who skipped the Tour after the Giro or who are hot off of the Tour like Froome was last summer.

The 2018 Giro route includes eight summit finishes along with two time trials: a short 9.7-kilometer test to start the race in Jerusalem and a 34.5-kilometer stage to Rovereto in the third week.

“Eight summit finishes, I’ve never done so. They are long and hard, not short ramps, and a different way of doing it than [the other grand tours],” said Vegni. “The time trials can shape the overall too much, but you can’t pull them because there are time trial champions and you have to have that in your race for balance.”

On paper, Froome should win given he can time trial and climb better than all of his rivals. Perhaps only the 2017 victor Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) could over-power cycling’s grand tour king, but he may skip the Giro for the Tour in 2018.

“We know that it would be a significant feat in the modern era, but the way we managed things this year gives me confidence that I can successfully target both races,” he said of plans to race the Tour de France six weeks later in 2018.

Money could have helped sway Froome’s decision to visit Italy in May. According to a VeloNews source close to the race, he will be paid more than Armstrong was paid in 2009 to attend. The ballpark appearance fee reaches around 2 million euro, according to an insider.

Such deals are not uncommon. A few insiders said that Movistar and Nairo Quintana agreed to a similar deal for 2017. RCS Sport flatly denied these claims.

“We spoke to Froome and Team Sky but only about sporting desire. There was never a relationship based on economics,” Vegni added.

“A start fee for Froome? No. I flatly deny that. Suggestions like that create problems for us with other riders. Imagine if another rider comes to me and says, ‘You gave Froome something, so what about me?’ I always deal with the teams, I’ve not personally spoken to Chris Froome, I’ve only spoken to team boss Dave Brailsford.”

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