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TRENTO, Italy (VN) — A weary and reflective Chris Froome (Sky) vows to keep fighting in the final week of the Giro d’Italia despite being in unfamiliar GC territory this late in a grand tour.
The Giro certainly has not gone the way the four-time Tour de France winner had hoped. Now seventh at 4:52 behind race leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott), Froome admitted his bid to win three grand tours in a row looks unlikely.
“I am obviously quite far back now in the GC. [The time gap] is big, especially with the way Simon is riding,” Froome said Monday at a rest day press conference. “It’s going to take really a lot to get that jersey off his shoulders.”
Froome, who turned 33 on Sunday, took satisfaction from his dramatic Monte Zoncolan victory Saturday, but he was equally dismayed to give up time to his podium rivals after slipping further back in Sunday’s explosive finale into Sappada. He dropped from fifth at 3:10 back down to seventh at nearly five minutes behind, erasing any momentum or optimism the team had regained following the emotional Zoncolan victory.
“I definitely paid the price for it yesterday,” Froome said of his Sunday struggles. “I put absolutely everything I had into the [Zoncolan]. I went super-deep. It was such an amazing experience, and one that I do not regret for one second. I do not regret putting everything on the line that day.”
Froome vowed to keep riding all the way to Rome with the GC focus remaining front and center. He also admitted the obvious: Yates is the strongest rider in the peloton.
“He hasn’t shown one moment of weakness so far, and he is only getting stronger,” Froome said. “I genuinely thought yesterday that he might be paying a little bit for the effort on the Zoncolan, but he only seemed stronger yesterday. I can only say congrats to Simon and he’s ridden an incredible race so far.”
Questions about Froome’s ongoing salbutamol case have faded into the background, at least temporarily, as he continues to push through the Giro. When asked if he was worried that his Zoncolan victory might not stand if there is a ban, Froome answered, “I’ve got no doubt …”
“I am pretty tired, to be honest. It’s been a pretty tough race,” he said. “It hasn’t been an easy race for me. I’ve been giving it my all. It wasn’t an easy start, and I am obviously quite far back now in the GC.”
Tuesday’s undulating 34.2-kilometer time trial from Trento to Rovereto could revive Froome’s podium hopes, but he added he likely won’t be able to regain enough lost time to Yates or defending champion Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb).
“If I gain anything on Tom Dumoulin, I will be extremely happy,” Froome said. “He is the world champion time trialist, so I do not expect to gain anything on him tomorrow. Let’s see. I am going to give it everything I’ve got, and take it from there … I am still going to focus on the GC. I am not just going to give up.”
Even if Yates cedes the pink jersey to Dumoulin on Tuesday, Froome still tipped his compatriot as the favorite to win the Giro when it ends in Rome on Sunday.
“I don’t see any weakness as it stands right now,” Froome said of Yates. “He’s done consecutive hard days back to back, so I don’t see any troubles for him coming into this last hard week.”
Froome’s Giro return was wrought with controversy, but the narrative changed in the wake of his hard crash just hours before the Jerusalem time trial. Froome struggled in the first half of the Giro, but he quietly held aspirations to be able to ride back into pink jersey contention in the final week. Those evaporated Sunday, but Froome said the Giro’s unpredictability urges him to press on.
“Given the start I had in Jerusalem, I didn’t expect not to be feeling less than 100 percent in the first part of the race,” he said. “I am still not quite myself, I would say. I am still battling the after-effects. I am giving everything I’ve got, and I am taking it one day at a time.
“The Giro’s always been a race that the fans love it, for its unpredictability, its explosiveness,” he continued. “I can feel it. It’s almost a combination of classics, of one-day races, on different type of terrain every day. Sometimes halfway through a stage, the race will just explode. That’s the nature of the Giro. Whereas in the Tour, it almost feels there is a way the race progresses. There is a certain rhythm to the race. In the Giro, anything can happen.”