FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The Chris Froome you see racing this week in the Tour of the Alps is not the same as the one or two months ago. His Team Sky said he completed a transformation ahead of the 2018 Giro d’Italia, appearing like the lean and focused cyclist who has four Tour de France titles.
Froome is completing his final tuneup race in northern Italy and Austria before he attempts to win his first Giro from May 4-27.
“He’s a completely rider than who I saw in Tenerife in the last month,” Nicolas Portal, Sky’s sports director when Froome races, told VeloNews.
“He made a transformation, much more skinny and also mentally — poof — he’s just super focused now.”
Froome won his first Tour title in 2013. He returned to win again in 2015, 2016, and 2017. After finishing second three times, he won the Vuelta a España last summer.
An anti-doping case is hounding him from the Vuelta a España. Froome tested for twice the allowed amount of asthma drug salbutamol. In the coming months, the UCI’s anti-doping tribunal will rule on his case.
Some critics suggested the case is weighing him down after he began the 2018 season by placing 10th in the Ruta del Sol and 34th in Tirreno-Adriatico. However, a training camp at altitude on Spain’s Tenerife island with higher intensity efforts has produced a cut 32-year-old Brit who fans and team staff are accustomed to seeing in late June before the Tour.
“Is this the Tour de France Froome? Yeah,” Portal continued. “When he switches on, it’s unbelievable. Only bike racing counts when he switches on, and it’s really nice to see.”
Froome sits fourth overall in the Tour of the Alps. He rode at the sharp end in both mountain days so far, different than when he was dropped on the queen stage of Tirreno-Adriatico at Sassotetto last month.
It was not easy to get to this point. Sky had to complete a complicated puzzle when planning Froome’s 2018 program. Instead of having him ready for the Tour de France in July, the team needed him at 100 percent two months sooner for the Giro. And similar to how he carried the form from the Tour the Vuelta in 2017, he will need to do so from the Giro to the Tour.
“His trainer Tim Kerrison worked closely with him. You could see this winter that he was doing long training, which he always does anyway. He was riding many hours in South Africa,” Portal said.
“It’s never easy to find the right mix between training and racing because in his mind it is the Tour de France also. He can’t miss long training and some volumes because if he finishes the Giro totally empty, he can’t back it up in the Tour. The foundation is really important if he wants to back it up at the Tour.”
Froome had to gamble on starting his racing season slightly raw. Now, he says he is in a “great position to be ready for the Giro.”
Early altitude camps at his home in South Africa and one in late-February/early-March were focused on putting in base miles. The last one, he pushed his body further.
“I’ve spent a lot of time in the winter up at altitude in Johannesburg,” Froome told VeloNews last month. “Always topping up with altitude is helpful.”
He was at the third and final altitude camp for about two and a half weeks. “Doing a lot more specific work,” said Froome. “More focus on intensity. [Before] it’s been a lot of miles and getting the base work in for the season ahead.
“I had a little slower build up and I think this year is going to be similar in that sense, and hopefully once I get up to speed I’ll be able to hold it for a bit longer.”