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Tour de France

Chris Froome vows 2023 won’t be his last

Four-time Tour de France winner says another bout of COVID won't slow him down ahead of stage-race targets for new season.

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ADELAIDE, Australia (VN) — Chris Froome vows 2023 won’t his last.

The four-time Tour de France winner still packs some unfinished business with his cycling career, and knocked back rumors he will retire at the end of this season.

The Israel-Premier Tech star told reporters Sunday that he isn’t putting a firm date on retirement, but insisted it will not be in 2023.

“For the future, I don’t have any plans to stop any time soon,” Froome said. “I want to make the most of that window while I am still in it.

“I feel like I’ve been given a second chance,” Froome said. “If I had ended my career, I would have felt that I had a lot more to give. Even if I am not at the front-end right now, I still get a lot of pleasure.

“I am looking at getting back to that level. It’s a fresh approach, and I am really enjoying it, and I hope to do it for a few more years.”

Froome’s current deal with Israel-Premier Tech ends at the end of 2023. Team owner Sylvan Adams said last fall that Froome can race at Israel-Premier Tech “as long as he wants to.”

At 37, Froome said he’s still motivated to race and do the hard work it takes to remain in the elite of the peloton.

“I still enjoy it. I’ve always enjoyed it,” Froome said. “I do enjoy the training and the sacrifice, all that side of the sport, that comes relatively easy to me.

“To race until 40? I don’t think anything is 100 percent sure in life, especially after what I learned the last few years.”

Froome coming off second COVID infection

Chris Froome and former teammate Geraint Thomas laugh during a press conference. (Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images)

Froome also confirmed that he is coming off another bout of COVID, a second case after he was infected last summer during the Tour de France.

“I had a little bit of an interruption of my prep coming here due to COVID. I picked it up at a team camp just going into that Christmas period,” Froome said Saturday. “It wasn’t anything like I had last summer, and the symptoms were very much less severe, and I was able to get back on my bike after less than a week.”

That’s in contrast to the COVID infection that zapped him during the Tour. Speaking on a recent YouTube video, Froome said “COVID really knocked me for six.”

“I came out of the season not feeling good. I feel I really needed a break,” Froome said. “I just wasn’t able to come back from that. I never felt like I had lots of energy on the bike. I went to the Vuelta to build through the race but all the way through I felt flat, flat, flat.”

Froome is back at the Tour Down Under for the first time since 2010, and he wants to use the Australian summer to springboard back to Europe.

“I’ve had a steady buildup getting here,” Froome said Sunday. “I am viewing this whole bloc here in Australia for five weeks for getting as many training miles as I can get, with good weather. And hoping to take that back into the European racing season.”

A fan of warm weather, Froome is back to Australia for the first time since he raced the Herald Sun Tour in 2016 and 2017. He’ll also race the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race later this month and will stay in Australia for five weeks to build his base ahead of the 2023 season.

Froome’s calendar is still taking shape, but a return to the Tour is firmly part of the plan.

Israel-Premier Tech earned a wildcard bid to race in the 2023 Tour, something of a salve for the team after it lost its WorldTour license as part of the UCI’s relegation-promotion rules at the end of last season.

“I’ll be targeting week-long stage race races,” Froome said of 2023. “Given now that we’ve been given the wildcard for the Tour, that’s our plan, it’s made a lot easier to move forward. Even as a team, even though we are not WorldTour, we feel WorldTour.”

For Froome, hope springs eternal.

Despite suffering for three seasons without a win, Froome promises to keep working.

He points out that in 2022 when he was healthy, he was showing signs of progress. A third place on the stage up Alpe d’Huez at the Tour was his first real confirmation.

“I am realistic about it,” Froome said of a possible Tour revival. “Perhaps targeting a weeklong race and being up there with the best GC guys, like Paris Nice, the Dauphiné, or Swiss, that’s a natural first step. I’d like to pick up where I left off last season, and get closer to where I was.”