Giro d'Italia

What’s wrong with Chris Froome?

Chris Froome never looked so bad at the start a grand tour, but Team Sky is remaining calm with big mountains ahead at the Giro.

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SANTA NINFA, Italy (VN) — Chris Froome never looked so bad at the start of one of his grand tour rides, but Team Sky is remaining calm with the meat of the Giro d’Italia still to come over the next two and a half weeks.

Froome lost 37 seconds on stage 1, a time trial in Jerusalem, to 2017 victor Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and another 17 seconds on the short steep stage 4 finish in Sicily.

“Is it the worst grand tour start yet? In Holland [the 2015 Tour de France], when he lost 30 or 40 seconds in the prologue…” Froome’s trusted sport director, Nicolas Portal said.

“But you can say that it is, yes, on the GC position, but you can also say that he’s been winning all the grand tours with three-four minutes to the second guy, except for the Tour last year due to the parcours. I don’t know, though, we just need to carry on day by day.

“It’s early in the season. We don’t want to have Chris Froome at 100 percent yet. You are going to see in the next two to three weeks, some guys are going to really emerge.”

Froome has the double objective of racing the Giro d’Italia and then the Tour de France, starting six weeks after the Giro rolls to a stop in Rome. Team Sky took that into consideration before approaching the 2018 season.

Chris Froome
Chris Froome’s injuries were visible on his right arm, five days after crashing before the Giro’s stage 1 time trial. Photo: Justin Setterfield | Getty Images

To his disadvantage, he crashed training for the opening time trial. Around four hours later, he competed with fresh blood still on his right side from the fall.

Ahead, though, the Brit has plenty of ground to recoup time on his rivals. The Giro faces its first of eight summit finishes with stage 6, a 15-kilometer final climb up Mount Etna. It continues with Montevirgine and several big passes in the second half of the race. Added to that, a 34.2-kilometer time trial that opens the third and final week of race. All those days should suit the 32-year-old.

“We are just a few seconds down on GC. He doesn’t have any plans to smash it on Mount Etna. It’s early to start the Giro there, that’s not going to be the climb of this Giro,” Portal said.

“There are so many hard climbs, back to back in the second and third week where you could explode and loss time. That’s not anything new. We just need to make sure our guys are getting better day by day.”

Froome’s preparation for the Tour de France usually involves early season races, a couple of altitude camps and a return in the Critérium du Dauphiné stage race in June. To be Tour de France-ready in the Giro, he condensed it into the earlier months while always keeping in mind the double objective.

“It’s earlier in the season, so it’s quite a difference. You need to prepare yourself earlier but you want to also be going full-gas in the Tour for a fifth title. So preparation is important, a bigger deal, but you also need not to over think it too much,” Portal said.

“The biggest challenge is to have Chris in good shape, but not too early and too strong, because you have a big event in July. Is this the Tour de France Froome? I don’t know. It’s hard to say. I think he’s in good shape but just had bad luck in the prologue. Yesterday, yeah, that too, but in five years we haven’t made that many mistakes.

“We just need to take out those things that happened and not blow our heads. We are optimistic and Chris is fine. We will see on Etna, it will prove more and we will understand after that.”

Froome, in the background, must also deal with an anti-doping case from the Vuelta a España. He tested for twice the allowed limit of asthma drug Salbutamol, which should be examined by a judge in the coming months.