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Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech) delivered his best performance in nearly three years Tuesday at the Mercan’Tour Classic Alpes-Maritimes.
The four-time Tour de France winner hadn’t finished in the top 20 in any race since stage 2 of the Criterium du Dauphine in 2019, the very race he crashed out of with career-threatening injuries.
In Tuesday’s mid-week race, Froome survived all of the early climbs in the second-year event, including La Colmaine, the Col de la Couillole and the first passage of the Col de Valberg.
The race was eventually won by Froome’s teammate Jakob Fuglsang, who attacked roughly half-way up the climb to solo clear of Michael Woods and David Gaudu. The win marked Fuglsang’s victory since the Danish rider took Il Lombardia in 2020. Woods beat Gaudu to the line to take second. Froome crossed the line in 11th place.
“It’s a super day for the team,” Froome said.
“Obviously with Jakob winning and Woody getting second place. We couldn’t have asked for much more. We had a plan coming into the race, to try and make it hard on the three last climb. It’s nice to see the team bouncing back. We had a difficult start to the season, and finally we’re putting some results on the scoreboard.
“On a personal level I’ve seen a big progression in the last few months. I’ve just come off a training camp now. The legs are feeling good and I’m taking it one week at a time, building the feelings and momentum. I want to get back to my old self again. I’m not there but I’m one step closer.”
Israel-Premier Tech set the pace on the penultimate climb with Froome sat in second or third wheel before Groupama-FDJ took over and Thibaut Pinot increased the speed.
By the top of the climb only 14 riders remained in contention, with Froome joined by his teammates Woods and Fuglsang.
With 12km to go, on the lower slopes of the final ascent of the Col de Valberg, Pinot swung over just as Froome began to lose contact with the head of the race.
The British rider has repeatedly spoken at length about his injury and health struggles since his horrific Dauphine crash that took place almost three years ago.
His injury problems stretched all the way into this year with a knee injury hampering and delaying his start to the season. At the Tour Romandie in April the 37-year-old told VeloNews that he was steadily making progress and that he still had time to find something like his best form ahead of the Tour de France.
- Froome says body back to ‘100 percent’ for first time since 2019 crash
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- Knee injury delays Froome’s season debut
“If I look at any of my previous years before the crash it always took me time to build up towards July. I’ve found that taking those steps meant that I could hold my form later into the summer as well and into the Vuelta,” Froome told VeloNews at the start of May.
“That’s my aim this year, to build up, try to get to the Tour in the best shape possible and then potentially look at the Vuelta, depending on how things are going. It’s one step at a time, and there are a lot of steps to go before I’m in Tour de France racing shape again. It’s about taking it one week at a time.”
Froome spent a block of time ahead of Mercan’Tour Classic Alpes-Maritimes at altitude at Isola along with several of his teammates. His next race is the Criterium du Dauphine, which starts this weekend.