CHOLET, France (VN) — Chris Froome started the Giro d’Italia with a crash, and still managed to pull off a dramatic come-from-behind victory.
His Tour de France opened with an even more spectacular fall and the Sky captain is still hoping the script will have the same ending. There was one key difference. His heavy crash in training ahead of a time trial in Jerusalem to open the Giro was much more serious even if he didn’t lose time. By contrast, his Tour crash saw him lose 51 seconds Saturday but escape serious injury, even if it looked much more dramatic.
On Monday, Froome surged back into the frame after erasing nearly all the time he lost Saturday to several key rivals.
“I am feeling fine after the crash, and thankfully it was a soft landing in the field,” Froome said Monday. “I have no injuries, not like in Jerusalem.”
Froome showed no signs of injury or discomfort when he crouched into the aerodynamic tuck as Team Sky stopped the clock for second in Monday’s team time trial and regained much of the 51 seconds he lost Saturday to important rivals.
Following a strong Team Sky performance, he climbed 58 positions on GC into 18th at 55 seconds back to new leader Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing).
“That’s reassuring to get some time back, and it would have been better to have not lost it anyway,” Froome said. “It worked out well for us, and we are in there close to the other rivals.”
Team Sky officials confirmed that Froome is not feeling any serious pain or discomfort from his high-speed crash Saturday, and it did not hamper his ability to hold the time trial position.
“Yesterday, Chris felt a little bit of stiffness in his neck, but it is nothing serious,” said Sky sport director Nicolas Portal. “Today he was really strong and I think he is fine. It is nothing like it was in Jerusalem. When he was trying to push hard, he really wasn’t himself. It is all good.”
Monday’s ride was almost as good as the win. Froome is right back in the middle of the GC, and backup GC option Geraint Thomas is lurking in third at just three seconds back.
Starting second just behind Mitchelton-Scott, Sky beat the Aussie outfit by five seconds in 38 minutes, 50 seconds to take the hot seat. Many inside the Team Sky bus were hoping that might be enough.
BMC Racing, however, blasted to victory four seconds faster than Sky to take the win. Quick-Step finished third at seven seconds slower.
As expected, the time gaps between the top teams were fairly tight. The top six teams were divided by just 35 seconds, with EF Education First-Drapac coming through with a solid ride for sixth.
Other teams gave up more, including Movistar at 54 seconds slower, Bahrain-Merida at 1:06 slower and Ag2r La Mondiale at 1:15 slower.
Add up all those differences, and Froome is much closer to his direct GC rivals than he was coming out of the weekend. Of legitimate podium contenders, Froome is now 44 seconds behind Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), 20 seconds behind last year’s runner-up Rigoberto Urán (EF-Drapac) and four seconds behind Richie Porte (BMC Racing).
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Monday’s race saw Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) settle in at 1:06 back and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) at 1:15 back. Even further back is Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who lost more time than Froome on Saturday and slid backward again in the TTT, now at 2:08 back.
“It didn’t start too well with the crash on Saturday, but that’s bike racing,” Froome said. “I am just taking it one day at a time and try to survive until we get to the mountains.
“I think there will be a lot more time lost throughout the GC group before we hit the mountains,” Froome continued. “One day you gain, and one day you lose. That’s just the nature of the game.”
Even more encouraging for Team Sky is that Thomas is now third overall at just three seconds behind Van Avermaet and Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing).
“It’s good for Froomey to back to more or less even now with most of his rivals,” Thomas said. “There are still a lot of hard stages coming up. The most important thing today was to get Froomey back where he should be.”
Team Sky is relieved to get the race underway following a traumatic approach to the Tour as Froome’s Salbutamol case was closed without a sanction. The team is trying to remain concentrated on the race and let the controversy surrounding the case play out in the media and not let it impact their performance on the road.
“We put Froomey back into the game, and that was the most important thing,” Portal said. “We are now back to equal or close to most of our rivals.”