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Giro: Froome keeps cool despite more early losses

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CALTAGIRONE, Italy (VN) — Chris Froome (Sky) isn’t hitting the panic button yet.

Now 20th overall at 55 seconds behind Giro d’Italia leader Dennis Rohan (BMC Racing) and 54 seconds to defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Froome downplayed more time loses Tuesday to his direct GC rivals.

“I’m not worried,” Froome said. “It wasn’t a super finish for me because I wasn’t positioned well in the decisive moment.”

Many are asking, what’s going on with Froome? A crash just hours before the opening-day time trial in Jerusalem led to him giving up 37 seconds to Dumoulin.

In Tuesday’s technical run to the hilltop finale at Caltagirone, Froome got pinched out at a key moment of the stage. He crossed the line 30th at 21 seconds behind his GC rivals, giving up another 17 seconds to Dumoulin and Dennis.

Froome dumped a bottle of water of his head at the steep finish as if he was trying to wash away the first rough and tumble stages of the 2018 Giro.

“The crash is just a memory and I’m not letting it get to my head,” he said. “It’s part of racing to have some days better or worse than the others.”

Froome’s rocky start to the Giro has everyone in the bunch on edge. No one quite knows what to make of it until the race moves into steeper terrain. Froome said right from the start that this Giro will be won in the mountains.

His GC rivals are in a wait-and-see mood right now.

“I’ve seen Froome lose time on finishes like this before, and on big mountains, he can take back a minute,” Dennis said. “I am not reading too much into it right now.”

On Tuesday, Froome was safely protected by Team Sky throughout most of the stage, and only got caught out when the bunch split in the explosive finale.

“Today was a very nervous stage, the roads were a little bit dangerous,” Froome said. “I’m happy that I’ve passed this day without any problems.”

With Froome now nearly one minute down on his top rivals, Team Sky will need to change its tactics. In previous grand tour wins, Froome often took control of the GC early and raced off his challengers. Now Froome will need to attack just to catch up.

“Now he has to make us some time. We are looking forward to this hard week. It’s a nice challenge,” said Sky teammate Wout Poels. “Now we have to attack to take back the time, and then even some more. It’s going to be a little bit different. Etna will be the first big test. You cannot win the Giro there, but you can lose it.”

What’s sure is that Froome’s rivals will be trying to turn the screw if they sense that he’s somehow not at his best. Wednesday presents another technical stage over narrow, twisting roads across rural Sicily. And then on Thursday, Mount Etna and the Giro’s first major mountaintop finale looms.

“Day after day, I’m feeling better. The crash is behind me now. I’m very confident for the next stages,” Froome said. “The day after tomorrow with Etna, the classification will truly start to change.”

Froome is hoping it is for the better.

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