When it came to navigating the peloton, bumping bars, and handling bottlenecks and accelerations throughout the UAE Tour, Froome said he had no lingering nervousness after the high-speed crash that took him away from racing for eight months.
“Coming back from such a long period of time off you never really know how you’re going to be like in the bunch if you’re going to be if you’re going to be a bit nervous, but I haven’t felt any of that,” Froome told Velonews. “I’ve just felt like just straight back into it. Almost feels I’ve picked up picked up where I left off.”
Froome spoke with VeloNews before stage 5 of the UAE Tour, the final day of racing before the event was cancelled due to an outbreak of coronavirus within the race circle. While VeloNews was unable to speak with Froome after the race was halted, Froome is likely to be tested for the virus, along with the dozens of other riders, team staff, and even media who attended the 2020 edition of the race.
Froome acknowledged that he still has a long way to go until he will be back at the level that won him seven grand tours, but insists that racing for a fifth Tour de France title is still the goal.
“Of course, I’m not in the same form I was when I when I left off, but that will come that will come. I mean, I only started training just over a month ago, so I don’t have that intensity in my legs yet,” he said. “The biggest thing for me right now is that there’s no lingering issues from the injuries I had and that I’m able to do the hard work now and over these next few months with the aim of being ready for the tour in July.”
Froome went off the back of the bunch when the favorites accelerated up the Jebel Hafeet climb, and it was Tadej Pogačar and Adam Yates who contested the victory on the mountain.
Froome says he still needs to get some intensity in his legs, and he plans to train at altitude in South Africa before racing Tour of Catalunya in late March. “I’m just taking it to the one block at a time,” he said.
To say Froome is taking it one step at a time would be appropriate, given the severity of his injury. Froome walked around the race starts and finishes with a notable limp. He revealed that walking these days presents a greater problem than pedaling.
“Walking has actually been a lot more difficult for me than being on the bike. Being on the bike is a lot more natural,” he said. “Where I had a plate on my hip – that sort of interferes with the muscles that stabilize the walking gait, the walking pattern. So, I really struggled with that coming back whereas on the bike, everything felt quite straight.”
Froome will have a lot of training to do before the Tour rolls out of Nice, for the grand depart, June 27. However, that’s not an issue for him, with rehab an ongoing process but no longer taking the hours of his day it did through the back half of last year. Before the UAE Tour, he was active to post images on social media of himself training on Gran Canaria and quash any rumors doubting his recovery.
“The rehab is definitely taking more of a backseat now that I’m back racing again and doing the long hours on the bike,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s something I can’t ignore completely. I’ve still got to keep working on weaknesses and improving.”