As doctors and experts have weighed in, a picture is emerging of what Froome’s future could hold— there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
A French surgeon who was part of the operating team that spent six hours piecing together the fractured bones of the four-time Tour de France said Froome should be able to race again.
“His sporting career is not in danger,” Dr. Remí Philippot told Sporza. “The surgery was long, but went well. He was immediately asking about when he can ride again. I expect him to be out of competition for at least six months.”
That assurance will come as good news for Froome, who struck a wall at 55kph during a training ride ahead of a time trial at the Critérium du Dauphiné. The high-speed crash left Froome with fractures to his right hip, elbow, ribs and, most seriously, a compound fracture to his right femur. Doctors also confirmed there were no major head injuries and only slight internal injuries.
Full recovery from a broken femur can take four to six months, sometimes longer if there are complications, meaning that Froome won’t be racing again in 2019. While there were some concerns that Froome’s racing career could be in danger, initial diagnosis coming out of France suggest that a return to competition is possible.
Whether Froome can return to his best level and try to win a record-tying fifth Tour de France remains to be seen. Joseba Beloki, the Spanish ex-pro who suffered similar injuries when he crashed during the 2003 Tour de France, cautioned that the road back to the top will not be easy for Froome.
“I believe Froome can come back, but it will be complicated that he will be good as before,” Beloki told the Spanish daily El Mundo. “I believe the biggest problem won’t be physical but motivational. He’s suffered a big blow. He’ll miss six months of racing, and later he’ll have to regain the rhythm. He’ll really notice the time without racing.”
Beloki suffered an equally horrific crash during the 2003 Tour when he high-sided over his bike while braking coming into a corner off the La Rochette climb, breaking his femur, elbow and wrist. The Basque rider was 30 at the time when he was challenging Lance Armstrong for overall victory in that year’s Tour. Beloki returned to race three more seasons, but never won another race.
“This accident will mark him for the rest of his life,” Beloki said. “I have a slight limp and I notice changes in the weather. I don’t know if the same thing will happen to Froome. He could come back to race, but nothing will ever be the same.”
Another question will be age. Froome, who turned 34 in May, will be in a race against history if he wants to win another Tour title. Only four riders have won the Tour at 34 or older, and only one of them, Cadel Evans in 2011, won the Tour at 34 in the modern era.
All those questions remain further down the road, however. On Friday, Froome remains in a French hospital in St. Etienne and will be closely attended by French and Team Ineos doctors.
Team Ineos Dr. Richard Usher deemed Thursday evening that Froome’s six-hour operation was a “success.”
“Chris woke up [Thursday] morning and was reviewed by the intensive care consultants and the orthopedic specialist who operated on him, and they’re both very happy with his progress to date,” Usher said. “[Froome] is already actively engaging in discussing his rehabilitation options, which is very encouraging.”
Froome is expected to stay in the hospital several more days for observation before being allowed to leave and face a very long road to recovery. Officials have not ruled out the possibility of additional surgeries.
“It’s going to be a long time before Chris races again,” said Ineos manager Dave Brailsford. “We all know how mentally tough Chris is, but can discuss the rest later. The most important thing is his health right now and that he is getting the best possible care.”
Froome — who could be awarded victory in the 2011 Vuelta a España after winner Juan José Cobo has been cited for biological passport violations — also asked officials to extend his gratitude to messages of support that have come pouring in from fans around the world.