“I think we’ve got to believe [in Froome], haven’t we?” team sport director Cherie Pridham said this week.
Froome heads up a big-budget, ambitious Israeli squad in 2021 in what marks a pivotal season in his career. Still on the comeback from a shopping-list of serious injuries and in his first season with a newly bolstered squad, Froome is all-in for targeting a fifth Tour de France, and team backer Sylvan Adams wants to see him do it this summer.
It’s now been nearly three years since Froome last won a grand tour at the 2018 Giro d’Italia, but the team believes that the elusive fifth yellow jersey is still in his grasp.
“Why not? It’s one of the instrumental reasons why we brought him on board, you know, to give that a go,” Pridham told the Eurosport podcast this week.
“[Given] the extent of the injuries that Chris has had to deal with, and the recuperation and rehab that he’s had to go through, we spent a lot of time as a team making sure that Chris’ rehab has been where we need it to be,” she said. “Although he might be a little bit behind in where we need to be, with Chris, every day at UAE he was feeling better and better.”
Froome had an inauspicious start to the final phase of his career at the UAE Tour last month, increasing the speculation about his ability to return to his former glories.
The 35-year-old was left swinging in the echelons of the opening stage in the Emirates and absent in the first mountaintop finish. The highpoint of his week was a ride deep into the second climbing test on Jebel Jais in support of teammate Ben Hermans.
After dropping out of the lead group with 4km to go and finishing several minutes back, Froome spoke of his optimism in his growing form.
The race had marked Froome’s first competition after spending countless hours of his off-season rehabilitating his leg at the Red Bull High-Performance Center in California. By February, the data suggested his shattered hip and femur was nearly back to the level it should be, and Froome and his team was buoyed by the progress.
“We’re a long way out still in terms of thinking about the Tour de France, but we are building in the background and I think from what I’ve seen and heard from his coaches, and from the performance team, he’s on track,” Pridham said. “Mainly and most importantly, he’s recovering – his rehab is almost 99 percent done.”
Froome has got the team, he’s got the ambition, he’s got the backing. Now he needs to start showing some results.
Froome is next set to race at the Volta a Catalunya later this month. From there, all roads lead to Paris.