Froome races Fleche Wallonne, plans Tour recon

This summer's Tour de France will have a stage finish on the infamous Mur de Huy, along with a cobbled stage the next day

WAREMME, Belgium (AFP) — Chris Froome was taking a break from his Tour de France preparations Wednesday by riding the Flèche Wallonne one-day classic in Belgium.

But according to his Sky manager Dave Brailsford, Froome’s true reason for a trip around Wallonia was as a stop-gap before riding a reconnaissance mission along the cobbles that will form part of the Tour de France’s fourth stage in July.

In fact, although Brailsford didn’t say so, Froome was perhaps also keen to experience the infamous Mur de Huy in true racing conditions — the Tour’s third stage will finish on the grueling climb that is also the climax of the Flèche Wallonne.

“He’s going to go and do a recon (reconnaissance) of the Tour de France cobbles [Thursday] so it fits in quite well,” Brailsford told AFP before the start of Wednesday’s race.

“He just got back from [training in] Tenerife so it just fits in well with his program, there’s no great strategy in it.”

Like many other Tour de France hopefuls, Froome goes to the Teide volcano on the Canary Island for altitude training that helps to prepare for the Tour’s mountains.

But his main program from now is to go to the week-long Tour de Romandie, which begins next week, before likely tackling June’s Criterium du Dauphine.

“It’s good to get another race day in, it’s good to do one of the Ardennes but ultimately he’s got to do a recon,” added Brailsford about Froome’s unexpected participation at the Flèche.

Last year, Froome was due to ride Liege-Bastogne-Liege, which takes place on Sunday, but pulled out at the last moment due to a cold.

He won’t ride in Liege this year either, as Brailsford said it is too close to the start of Romandie — two days — where Froome is a two-time reigning champion.

“It fitted in well for us and then off to Romandie. Liege, with Romandie, is close so that kind of rules Liege out,” Brailsford said. “He’s more focused on getting back into the swing of things at Romandie.”

After beginning his season by beating arch-rival Alberto Contador to victory at the Ruta del Sol stage race, Froome was due to ride Tirreno-Adriatico last month but pulled out for the second successive year due to a chest infection.

He came back to action at the end of the month at the Volta a Catalunya but struggled badly and finished more than half an hour behind teammate and eventual winner Richie Porte.

“He was ill, he’s got over that and we want to make sure he’s got his full health and fitness back, which he’s got now,” added Brailsford.

“It’s just a question of building his form, he’s had a good block up in Tenerife and everything’s heading in the right direction.”