Chris Froome has returned to training after he was forced to withdraw on the eve of Tirreno-Adriatico due to a back injury and has confirmed that he will return to action in time for the Volta a Catalunya.
Earlier this week, Sky manager Dave Brailsford denied reports that the Tour de France winner would require surgery on the injury, which the team has described as “a slight inflammation to the sacroiliac joint in the lower back.”
“A few days' rest let the inflammation go down and everything’s been going really well since then. I’m now mid-way through a good, solid block of training which is taking in a lot of the mountains near the Cote d’Azur,” Froome told his team’s website. "I’ve been on my own for a lot of it because most riders are racing at the moment, but that’s allowed me to focus fully on my recovery.”
Froome’s withdrawal from Tirreno-Adriatico was only announced last Friday evening, and saw a late reshuffle of Sky’s rosters for this week’s stage races. Richie Porte was drafted in to replace Froome in Italy, while Geraint Thomas stepped up to a leadership role at Paris-Nice in Porte’s absence, and currently leads the race overall.
Froome showcased his early-season form by winning the Tour of Oman last month, but Tirreno-Adriatico would have seen him face Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) for the first time this year, as well as race alongside Bradley Wiggins.
“It’s definitely been disappointing to miss out on Tirreno. It was an important race for me and offered me a good opportunity to build on the form I had at the Tour of Oman,” Froome said. “With my back problem though, we felt it was a better idea to play it safe and look at the bigger picture, which is making sure I’m ready for the Tour de France in July. We’ve erred on the side of caution in that respect.”
The Volta a Catalunya gets underway on March 24 and will be Froome’s first WorldTour race of the 2014 campaign. His last two appearances in Catalonia came in his first two seasons at Sky, when he finished 71st in 2010 and 61st twelve months later. “It’s hard to find races that go high up into the mountains at this time of year, but Catalunya always provides that and it attracts the best general classification riders as a result,” he said.
Last year’s race was won by Dan Martin ahead of Joaquim Rodriguez, Michele Scarponi, Quintana and Wiggins. A similarly high-quality field is expected this time around, which Froome acknowledged would be part of the attraction.
“Alberto [Contador] is likely to be there, so it’ll be interesting to race against him again in the mountains, and Vincenzo [Nibali] could ride it as well, but I haven’t seen a full start list as yet,” he said.
“I’ll be watching all my closest rivals on TV this week and it’s a rare situation to be in actually because I’m normally racing with them. I’ll be able to see who’s going well, and who’s not at Paris-Nice and Tirreno, and that’ll give me an idea of who’s going to be up for it in Catalunya.”