Chris Froome’s (Team Sky) Tour de France reconnoitre nearly turned to disaster when he crashed just 10 kilometres from the finish of La Flèche Wallonne. Froome was slow to get back on his bike but with a bid for his second Tour title in mind, rode to the finish. Left by the bunch, it was a lonely road home and he eventually crossed the line 123rd, over 12 minutes down on the winner, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).
Fortunately for Froome and Team Sky, the little trip to the tarmac hasn’t done too much damage. “He’s lost a bit of skin but other than that he’s all good. We’re going to continue with our recon tomorrow of the cobbled stage on the Tour so it’s no problem,” Dave Brailsford said after a lengthy debrief with his riders on the team bus. “The final of the race was quite nervous but that’s the way it is.”
There were conflicting reports as to how Froome’s crash came to pass. Brailsford told reporters that it happened when another rider came down in front of Froome. However, a rider that had been immediately behind the 2013 Tour champion said the he had come down on his own. Several other riders did crash in the incident but television pictures didn’t show what triggered the incident.
After Froome’s two big crashes at last year’s Tour, there must have been some tense moments in the Team Sky car but Brailsford is confident that this latest mishap will not affect his rider. “It’s part and parcel of being a pro cyclist. The guys don’t survive if they’re afraid of crashing. To be fair all of the top riders crash and they’re all still here and riding at that level and it’s testament to their ability and their tenacity.”
Froome was one of many Tour de France hopefuls lining up at Flèche Wallonne looking to test out the key sections of stage three under racing conditions. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) also made the trip, while Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) and Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) rode it as part of their Ardennes campaign. Despite the crash, the team feel it was a beneficial day out.
“It’s definitely worthwhile, even after his crash Chris continued to ride it just to get to know the circuit. It was definitely a good thing to have done. It’s given us some good information about that particular stage of the Tour and how we think we’d ride it,” said Brailsford.
“I think followed by the cobbled stage, I think that it makes for a very couple of interesting days. It adds a bit of spice and excitement and it adds a bit of unknown and I think off the back of that they’ll probably be a bit nervous about it and ultimately it will be a nail-biting time for us but it will be great for the fans and spectators of the sport which is what we want.”
Froome will now head to France to take a look at the cobbles that will feature on stage four before returning to stage racing at the Tour de Romandie, which begins on April 28.