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Chris Froome vows to continue in professional cycling, but admitted that the 2023 season could be a make-or-break year in his career.
Speaking to MARCA at the recent Saitama Critérium, the four-time Tour de France winner said he’s encouraged by his slow by steady progress from his devastating crash in 2019, and vows to keep working for what he says are realistic goals.
“If we talk about winning the Tour de France again, I am not thinking about that,” Froome told MARCA. “The dream is still there, but it’s difficult. I am only focusing on following the process.”
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Froome, 37, summarized 2022 as a season full of highs and lows, citing his solid ride at the Tour de France, where he was third on the stage to Alpe d’Huez. But a case of COVID-19 derailed his plans to perform at his desired level at the Vuelta a España, and then a crash when he was “doored” ended his season early.
“I am a person who likes challenges and the process,” he told the Spanish sports daily. “I am on that road and I am working toward it. I suffered a terrible crash that almost forced me out of cycling and I have managed to come back. Now things are different. This year I was motivated by some of my performances, but for different reasons, I didn’t have the opportunity to truly show where I am at.”
Despite some setbacks, he insists he was encouraged that in 2022 he was able to race without pain and discomfort for the first time since his devastating crash in the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné that nearly killed him and ended his career.
“This year was the first year since the accident that I haven’t had any problems,” Froome said. “From my comeback to now, it was like I was a neo-pro. Now I want to have simple challenges, like having a long period without any problems or targeting a stage win.
“This season is going to be the year of truth,” Froome said of 2023. “To really know where I am.”
Froome has the green light from Israel Premier Tech owner Sylvan Adams to race “as long as he wants,” Adams confirmed to VeloNews.
Froome said he’s still motivated to race, but said it’s too early to talk calendars for 2023, adding, “everything is up in the air right now. We’ll speak at the next team camp.”
In 2022, Froome raced 61 days, and expressed throughout the season he was making steady progress, both with his power numbers in training and in his ability to finish off races.
“I had good moments and not so good one. It took me awhile to get the season started. I was going well at the Tour, but then I got COVID,” he told MARCA. “It impacted me a lot and it wasn’t easy to recover. I had some hard times, but also some positive things as well. After the accident, I feel like I am taking some steps. I don’t know how far I will get, but I am still motivated to keep improving.”
Froome on relegation: ‘It’s like a death sentence for teams’
Froome also criticized the UCI’s controversial relegation/promotion system that’s expected to push Israel Premier Tech out of the WorldTour for 2023.
The team finished outside of the top 18-ranked teams by the end of 2022, and did not meet the sporting criteria to stay in the WorldTour in 2023. Team owner Sylvan Adams has threatened legal action if the team is relegated, citing the “force majeure” of the coronavirus pandemic during the past three seasons.
“I believe the system is a death sentence for many teams,” Froome told MARCA. “Some teams have to survive year to year, and if you have to tell a team that potentially will not be in the Tour de France during the next three years, many teams will simply close their doors.”
Froome said a more equitable system, if there is going to be relegation, would be a one-year basis, rather than for three years.
He also criticized the UCI’s points system, which is weighted heavily toward second-tier, one-day races.
“We won two stages at the Tour de France, but if you look at the points we earned, it’s about the same as two guys finishing in the top-10 in the French Cup,” he said. “That doesn’t add up. The points should be a better way to represent professional cycling.”