Ahead of his tilt at the Vuelta a España, Chris Froome has spoken for the first time about the crash that knocked him out of the Tour de France. The Team Sky rider was forced to abandon the race and all hope of defending his title on stage 5, after crashing for the third time in two days.
"It has been a really difficult period and obviously pulling out of the Tour was one of the hardest things I've ever done but I think at the time, it was quite clear I wasn't going any further with things the way they were," Froome told Sky Sports News from Sky’s training base in Nice. "It was definitely up there in terms of set backs, as far as set backs go."
Froome was the big favourite to take the overall victory, after dominating the previous year’s race. Things went to plan during the opening weekend in Yorkshire and Froome arrived in France only two seconds behind the race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). However, his title defence hit the skids when he came down on the fourth stage. He could be seen shaking his wrist throughout the remainder of the stage, but a scan later didn’t show up anything untoward.
Together with a heavily strapped wrist, Froome climbed onto his bike to tackle the already infamous cobbled stage 5, but he wouldn’t make it to the pavé. "Conditions were tough and with everything taped and bound in place with a splint, trying to control the wrist, I couldn't steer the bike in the way I normally had to control it. On a stage like that you need to use your hands," explained Froome.
"It was quite a savage stage even before we had hit the first cobbled section - I'd come off twice. It was clear to me at that point: this is a long shot. We're not going to get through the cobbled stages now."
With Froome out of the race, Sky had to quickly reassess their strategy. Richie Porte was promoted to team leader, as the much talked about plan B. It went well to start with, as Porte moved into a podium position ahead of the first rest day. However, Sky was soon scratching around for plan C after a bad day for Porte saw him slip down the general classification. While it was a blow for the team, Froome thinks that they must take the positives from it.
"It’s not necessarily a bad thing what happened this year," said Froome. "I mean it’s obviously devastating for us as a team. Having won it the last two years, we had a lot of expectation for this year’s Tour. I think in a way, it has been a good little readjustment for us and to re-evaluate things and just look at exactly where we are and how to improve.
"It’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security of how easy it is at the time. It’s a huge ask winning something like the Tour de France and I don’t think that we can ever go there and day that we’ve got this one in the bag. That’s never the case."
Froome will lead Team Sky at the Vuelta a España, which begins on August 23. He has completed the Spanish Grand Tour twice, with his best result coming in the 2011 edition where he beat teammate Bradley Wiggins into second place. While he’s eager to get his “teeth stuck into” the race, he’s already thinking about next year’s Tour de France.
"It's a race where I’m always going to give it my all and do my fighting best. It will definitely spur me on to be absolutely ready for next year’s edition. It’s just one of those things. I’m just going to have to suck it up now and move on."