Chris Froome's Giro d'Italia began on an ill-starred note when he crashed during his reconnaissance of Friday's opening time trial, but the Team Sky rider reported no lingering effects of the incident when he reported for the start of stage 2 in Haifa.
"Of course, crashing is never ideal especially before an important stage like yesterday," Froome said after signing on. "But I'm fine. It was only superficial wounds I had, and now I'm looking forward to getting on with the rest of the race."
Froome conceded 37 seconds to maglia rosa Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) in the Jerusalem time trial, and also yielded ground to men like Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Domenico Pozzovivo (Bahrain-Merida), riders he would have expected to beat in the 9.7km individual test.
"I was there with the rest of the GC guys, and only two guys really stood out yesterday, Tom Dumoulin and the BMC rider, Rohan Dennis," suggested Froome, who lies in 21st place overall. "Otherwise I'd say I'm there or thereabouts with the other GC guys, so at least it wasn't worse yesterday.
"It's still a three-week race, and it's not won in the prologue."
"I'm quite well I'm lucky that I didn't hurt myself any worse than I did and I'm happy that I didn't lose too much time. We still have three weeks to make the race," Froome said. "You always feel bad after a crash but it's part of our sport, you have to get up and keep going."
A welcome presence?
Froome's presence at this Giro d'Italia is a contentious one given his salbutamol case sparked by an Adverse Analytical Finding during last year's Vuelta a España. The case has yet to be resolved, but there was no sense in Haifa that he was persona non grata as far as the race organisation were concerned.
After signing on in the shadow of Sammy Ofer Stadium, for instance, Froome was ushered by race director Mauro Vegni to stand in for a photograph alongside him and Italy’s ambassador in Israel, Gianluigi Benedetti, an honour also extended to the maglia rosa Dumoulin.
Israel Cycling Academy backer and Israeli Grande Partenza patron Sylvan Adams also made a point of seeking out Froome to inquire after his wellbeing.
Froome was reportedly paid an appearance fee of €1.4 million to ride the Giro, though Vegni insisted in the build-up to the race that his negotiations had been with Team Sky rather than the rider himself, and said that all teams are paid a fee based on the strength of their rosters.
The wind was rising steadily as the peloton prepared to set out on the road south to Tel Aviv, and while the head/sidewind of 20kph was not expected to cause undue problems, the opening mass start of a Grand Tour is always a particular occasion. Froome, like others, was slightly concerned.
"The first road stage is always a bit nervous," Froome said.
"We have a bit of wind here, and the heat will certainly have an effect. We'll see. It's a day for the sprinters, but it's sure to be a nervous stage so we'll see what happens."