Want to watch the Giro d’Italia? Stream all the stages on Fubo.tv for a special first-month introductory rate of $19.99. Subscribe now >>
JERUSALEM (AFP) — Chris Froome was fit to start the Giro d’Italia on Friday despite crashing in a training ride ahead of the “Big Start” in Jerusalem, dashing his hopes of putting the drama of his adverse doping test behind him.
Four-time Tour de France winner Froome hit the ground during his ride and suffered cuts and abrasions to the right side of his body, where his shorts and jersey were also torn.
But a Team Sky spokesman told AFP the 32-year-old was fine and would start 9.7-kilometer opening stage time trial on the same bike he was riding when he crashed.
Like all 176 riders starting the Italian tour in Jerusalem, Froome had taken advantage of the cordoned-off street course to embark on a reconnaissance ride.
But his practice ride was cut short — and caught on camera by an eagle-eyed Twitter user — although he was able to pedal back to his team bus to receive treatment from doctors before returning to his hotel.
It was another blow to the race favorite, who has been under pressure in the build-up after testing for elevated levels of the asthma medication salbutamol during last year’s Vuelta a Espana, which he won.
Froome is attempting to become only the third man in history to hold all three grand tour titles at the same time, having also won last year’s Tour de France.
He escaped a provisional suspension over the adverse analytical finding in his urine sample at the Vuelta because salbutamol is allowed in certain doses.
But he would have been hoping to steal a march on many of his rivals for pink jersey glory as he is a time trial specialist, having won Olympic and world championship bronze medals in the discipline.
“I think we could see gaps of up to 20 or 30 seconds between the main contenders, especially on such a technical, tough circuit, up and down,” Froome said before the race.
He had also spoken on Wednesday of his preference for hot weather — something that Jerusalem was providing in spades.
The temperature crept over 86 degrees Fahrenheit with a thin haze that made it heavy as well as hot, something French climber Thibaut Pinot is not a fan of.
“It’s not ideal with the heat,” he had said on Wednesday.
The time trial course is not entirely suited to Froome’s abilities, though, as it includes 18 turns and frequent short climbs and descents, meaning the less powerful but punchier riders would be less disadvantaged.
Certainly, Froome now knows the perils the course holds after his training spin.
Crowds were still sparse during the morning, competing with the throngs of tourists visiting the Old City, as well as the faithful heading to the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount for Friday prayers.
For some, including an Old City barber named Eddie, the race was a hindrance.
“This Italian race is terrible, all the roads are closed,” he complained.
The first rider to set off was Italian Fabio Sabatini at 1:50 p.m. local time, while Australian specialist Rohan Dennis posted an early marker of just over 12 minutes.
Froome was due to start at 4:41 p.m. local time — leaving him plenty of time to recover from his morning tumble — with reigning champion Tom Dumoulin will be last to head out at 4:45 p.m.