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Chris Froome abandons Critérium du Dauphiné citing illness

Four-time Tour de France winner pulls out of key warmup race just weeks ahead of start in Copenhagen.

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BRIANCON, France (VN) — Chris Froome will not start Saturday’s mountain stage at the Critérium du Dauphiné citing illness.

The four-time Tour de France winner struggled to stay in the bunch the past few stages, and the team confirmed Saturday morning he would not start the stage over the Galibier and Croix-de-Fer climbs.

“I was looking forward to the final two stages of the Dauphiné, but I haven’t been feeling 100 percent,” Froome said Saturday morning.

“It’s disappointing to leave the race unfinished, but I’ve been progressing well, and I don’t want to set myself back at this important stage of the season.”

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Froome was hoping for a strong Dauphiné to earn a return ticket to the Tour de France, starting July 1 in Copenhagen.

Team doctors did not reveal what Froome might have been suffering from, only saying he was “feeling unwell the past two days.”

The latest setback comes as Froome was expressing optimism about his return to form following his crash in the 2019 Dauphiné that nearly derailed his career.

After struggling during the past two seasons, Froome was showing signs of recovery after finishing close to the favorites in a one-day French race last month.

“This is the first time in three years that I’ve been fully niggle free, issue free, I haven’t had any pain, I haven’t had any discomfort, the left-right leg balance is in place,” Froome said earlier this week. “It’s been an uninterrupted period since January until now to be able to work consistently and move things in the right direction.

“I’m seeing the results of that, but I also think it’s understandable that people have these expectations given what I’ve achieved in my career.

“At the same time, people need to remember where I’m coming from now over these last three years is a completely different place. At this race three years ago, I almost lost my life. I couldn’t straighten my leg or put weight on my leg for the best part of four or five months. I broke my leg in two places, to come back from something like that isn’t guaranteed.”

Froome struggled to stay with the leaders during the Dauphiné, and lost three minutes during Wednesday’s time trial.

Froome was expected to earn a return ticket to the Tour next month with Israel-Premier Tech.

Other expected starters include Daryl Impey, Simon Clarke, Guillaume Boivin, Hugo Houle, Michael Woods, and Jakob Fuglsang.