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Froome’s Giro hopes take hit with second crash

By Gregor Brown • Published
Chris Froome radioed back to the team car after recovering from his crash in the final kilometers of the stage. Phot: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

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MONTEVERGINE DI MERCOGLIANO, Italy (VN) — Chris Froome’s hopes of winning the 2018 Giro d’Italia took another hit with a crash today on the wet roads in Campania.

Froome, the four-time Tour de France winner aiming for his first Giro title, fell with 5.5 kilometers to race up the Montevergine di Mercogliano summit finish. He quickly rejoined the group of favorites to finish the stage, but showed fresh blood on the same right side he injured in a fall ahead of stage one.

The team admitted that his performance took a hit after a crash during his warmup prior to stage one. Froome would go on to lose time in the subsequent stages. With another summit finish on tap tomorrow, it is uncertain how the most recent crash will affect the grand tour star.

Froome rode down 11.5 kilometers to the team bus and climbed directly onboard. Head sports director Nicolas Portal did the same after arriving by car.

“We saw him after the finish,” sports director Matteo Tosatto explained.

“He put on his jacket to stay warm for the downhill and he seemed OK. He didn’t have any complaints.”

His tires lost grip in a right-hand switchback that afternoon showers had dampened.

“The roads were really slippery and I just lost my back wheel when I went over a white line accelerating out of the corner,” Froome said later.

“I didn’t want to be caught off guard coming into that final, so I think it was the right thing to do, to get back to the front and stay in control of things. I think the guys did a really good job of getting me back up there. I’m happy to tick off another day. Tomorrow is going to be a really tough stage.”

A hole marked his black Sky shorts and his right knee showed a fresh one-inch patch of blood. He fell on the same right side at high-speed in the warm up to the stage one time trial in Jerusalem.

He lost 37 seconds that day and another 17 seconds when the race reached Sicily for the technical and short uphill run to Caltagirone. He now sits ninth at 1:10 minutes behind another Brit and race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott).

“This is a more human Froome,” said Giuseppe Martinelli, team manager at rival team Astana.

“I don’t know if it’s because he wants to show well having understood the difficult situation around him. Some say one thing, some say another thing, but he just wants to be a cyclist and he’s seemingly more open. He’s speaking Italian here too, I like that.”

Froome is racing his first grand tour after having tested for twice the allowed limit of asthma drug salbutamol in the Vuelta a España. A judge has yet to hear the case, but Froome risks losing the Vuelta title and a ban.

“He has a big responsibility and he knows that the entire world is talking about him. But he just wants to be a racer here,” Martinelli added.

“He wants to do the best he can while his case goes on, but he feels that responsibility, and will until the case goes on. If he thinks only about being a racer, then he’s better off.”

Martinelli guided several cyclists to grand tour wins, including Vincenzo Nibali and Fabio Aru recently. In situations like this, he would remain calm with his stars.

“We won the grand tours when my riders lost time in the first week. That time’s always recovered in the last week.”

Thursday, Team Sky boss David Brailsford revealed that Froome had been suffering from his Jerusalem fall.

“The crash on day one definitely affected him, you could see it affected him,” Brailsford said. “Chris has a lot of room for improvement.”

How much stage eight’s crash will set back Froome remains to be seen. Stage nine to Gran Sasso, a 26.45-kilometer finishing climb that rises above 2000 meters will be the next test for an embattled Froome.

“Yeah, I think [he’s going better], but he didn’t need that crash today,” Tosatto added. “We can’t look too far away, just daily, but we are faithful Chris is going to be OK.”

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