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Team Sky said Froome was caught up behind a late-stage crash in Wednesday’s punchy finish and gave up 40 seconds to stage winner and race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott). Froome yo-yoed back out of the top-10 to 12th at 3:20 back.
“I am going to keep fighting,” Froome told Eurosport. “It’s good to get this racing in the legs. I certainly haven’t given up hope.”
Froome was already at the back of the favorites’ group when a handful of riders went down in a spill as the course narrowed. It appears Froome did not fall, but the mishap disrupted his rhythm in the frenetic finale to the hilltop town.
Despite struggles so far in this Giro, Froome keeps expressing hope his legs will come around in time for a late-race surge toward the pink jersey. Pressure is mounting as Yates and second-place Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) keep piling on to their respective advantages and opportunities keep passing by.
Former Giro winner Alberto Contador told Italian media overnight he already thinks Froome will not win the race.
With such a rough-and-tumble start to the Giro, many have wondered if Froome just might pack it in. His ongoing Salbutamol case remains in the background but Froome insists he will finish the Giro and race the Tour de France in July.
“No, no,” Froome said when asked if he is thinking about quitting. “I’m going to keep fighting. I’m getting there day by day. I’m optimistic I’m going to come right. There’s still some really hard stages to come.”
Following a rest day Monday — when Froome once again vowed not to abandon the Giro — Froome safely negotiated Tuesday’s grueling transition stage that saw Esteban Chaves plummet out of contention after giving up 25 minutes. It’s that kind of unpredictability that is keeping Froome’s hopes alive as the Giro pedals toward tougher terrain waiting in northern Italy.
“We saw with Esteban Chaves how quickly things can change for any of one of those GC riders, so we just have to keep plugging away and keep trying to do everything we can,” Froome said. “The team is motivated and I’m motivated. We are going to do as much as we can.”
Many remain confounded at Froome’s inability to keep pace with the favorites in key moments of the decisive stages. In every stage so far, he’s either lost time or barely hung on against the likes of Dumoulin or Yates.
Froome pointed to his pre-race crash in warm-up ahead of the opening day time trial in Jerusalem as the culprit for his poor showing in the first half of the Giro.
“I’m not going to lie, that crash took a whack out of me. I have a lot of pain down my right side, which in this game if you are not at your absolute best, you can only hide for so long, which we’ve seen,” Froome continued. “But I feel that I’ve been progressing though the race, still just chipping away and hoping to do the best I can.”
Two relatively mild transitions stages should give the sprinters a chance to dash back into the frame and give the GC contenders a chance to catch their collective breath. The Zoncolan summit looms Saturday.