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Chris Froome: ‘Real test’ at Critérium du Dauphiné will come this weekend

The Israel-Premier Tech rider says this season is the first he's been 'niggle free' since his Dauphiné crash in 2019.

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Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech) says that the real test of his pre-Tour de France form will come this weekend at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

Froome is not guaranteed a place at the Tour de France next month and is fighting for one of the remaining spots on Israel-Premier Tech’s eight-man squad.

With less than a month until the Tour starts in Copenhagen, his performance at the Dauphiné this week and the forthcoming Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge will be deciding factors in his potential selection. He made it safely through the opening stage but is looking to later in the week for his chance to prove himself.

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“Yesterday was relatively straightforward,” Froome said at the start of stage 2. “It was clear that it was going to come down to a bunch sprint with the likes of some of the less typical sprinters like Van Aert, who can obviously climb very well, putting the pressure on the climb yesterday to try to get rid of Groenewegen for the sprint, it’s quite clear that’s what was going to happen and that’s how it played out yesterday.

“For me personally, I felt alright. I felt comfortable in that group, but I think that the real test will come in this race starting tomorrow with the small uphill kick to the finish and this weekend with Saturday and Sunday’s stage, they’re proper climbing stages.”

Last week, the 37-year-old rode to his best result since his horror crash at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné at the recent Mercan’Tour Classic, finishing 11th in the one-day race. He made it into a breakaway move before being dropped later on and finishing 3:58 down on his teammate Jakob Fuglsang, who went on to win the race.

The result is a far cry from Froome of four years ago, who was regularly winning grand tours and week-long stage races, but he says that a return to his full form following the huge crash three years ago has never been guaranteed.

“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,” he said. “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.”

With some solid results behind him, Froome is confident that he is progressing well and there’s no upper limit on what he can achieve.

“It’s a step-by-step process, the first process was learning to walk again, and then it was getting onto a bike, then it was riding a bike again, and then it was maybe I can get back into being in the racing peloton,” Froome explained. “Now, I’m trying to make that next step of being more competitive and that’s where I’m at currently. I’m not going to set myself a limit and say that’s where I’m going to get to, I’m just going to be working as hard as I can and keep moving things in the right direction.

“I’ve been really fortunate to have the support of the team, Israel-Premier Tech have been really patient with me and supportive of everything, so I’m very fortunate to be in this position.”