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CATANIA, Italy (VN) — Chris Froome happily returned to Italian soil Monday after a tumultuous three-day Israeli start to his Giro d’Italia.
Things could not have started worse for Team Sky’s star. He endured a withering half-hour press conference where he was hammered by the scandal-hungry British press, crashed during a training ride, lost 37 seconds in the opening stage, and nursed his wounds as the race rolled though the Holy Land. For the first time in his grand tour career, he is starting on his back foot.
Froome is happy to have the drama behind him as he prepares to ride on the Italian roads to Rome.
“It’s been a completely different experience, something unlike any other race I’ve done, and certainly unlike any other grand tour start I’ve done,” Froome told VeloNews.
“I guess this is the Giro, this is part of the race, and this has been a real experience for us to come out here and experience another culture like this.”
Froome has won the Tour de France four times and the Vuelta a España once. This is the first time he is trying to win the Giro d’Italia, and this race marks the first time a grand tour has started outside of Europe.
“I guess there’s one of those where there are negatives and positives,” he continued. “It’s a lot of hard work for the staff, the team to pack everything up and brining all the equipment over.
“Logistically, it’s a bit of a nightmare, but it’s great for the sport in terms of promoting sport in new territory. And that’s got to be a good thing in cycling.”
Fans loved it. They could see their heroes up close since teams lacked their normal team buses that serve as a mobile headquarters and often as a hiding place.
Exposed, one could easily see the fresh wounds still staining Froome’s white kit. He hit the pavement on Friday ahead of the time trial opening stage and suffered road rash down his right side. In the afternoon, he lost 37 seconds to top rival and defending Giro champion Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) in the TT.
“Discomfort? No, thankfully it’s nothing serious,” Froome said. “Each day it goes on, it feels better and better.”
Froome’s pre-race press conference brought many questions about his salbutamol case. He tested for twice the allowed limit of the asthma drug during the 2017 Vuelta.
According to The Times, his lawyers are expected to draw on a new scientific report by Dutch researches that says WADA’s salbutamol test is unsafe, given that levels in urine can vary wildly. As many as 15.4 percent of the tests can could produce false positives and putting the presumption of guilt on the athlete is “completely unacceptable,” they argue.
With the Giro back in Italy, however, the attention will likely focus more on the race.
The Sky camp traveled with several teams on a three-hour flight that departed Israel at 10:20 a.m. local time and flew across the Mediterranean Sea. Froome and his seven teammates will take an easy coffee ride and enjoy a rest day in Catania, on the island of Sicily, ahead of Tuesday’s stage 4.
Never before has Froome seemed so eager to be in Italy, where the Giro returns to a normal chaotic state and where Froome will find roads to attack on. Already Thursday, the peloton will face its first summit finish to Mount Etna.
“I haven’t thought back to the last time I was trying to make up time, but I’m not giving up!” Froome said.
“There’s still two and half weeks of racing to go and the majority of the race … All the racing in the mountains is still to come, so a lot can happen.”