Chris Froome has announced he is 'here and ready' to target a record-equaling fifth victory at the Tour de France as he continues to train and work hard under COVID-19 coronavirus lockdown in Monaco. Earlier this month, Froome exclusively told Cyclingnews that the Tour de France was his 'number one target'.
After the terrible injuries of his crash at last year's Critérium du Dauphiné, Froome faced a race against time to be fit for the Tour de France in June. But with the race now postponed to August 29 to September 20, and his recovery going better than expected, Froome seems convinced he can compete for a fifth victory.
The Team Ineos rider has been able to use the lockdown to complete his rehabilitation and rebuild muscle strength in his left leg, while also clocking long rides on the home trainer. With his Grand Tour rivals unable to race until July and forced to train in similar conditions, Froome has been able to close the gap and make a fifth Tour de France victory a possibility.
"Going for my fifth Tour after my crash last year may seem impossible but I'm here and ready for it," Froome announced in a video message on social media.
"I don't like to think in terms of limits. Our life as professional cyclists is constantly about setting different targets, setting different goals. I'm not realistically in with a chance of winning the race, unless I can hit that goal," he added in the message that included photographs and x-rays of his crash and injuries but also him winning the Tour de France and racing.
"Every time I've come up against adversity, I think that's always pushed me even harder to want to prove them wrong."
Froome crashed out of last year's Critérium du Dauphiné during a reconnaissance ride of the stage 4 time trial, which left him with various fractures, including to his femur, neck and sternum. An infection in November after surgery slowed his recovery but Froome returned to racing at the UAE Tour just before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the suspension of racing and training in several European countries.
He returned to Europe in late March after a training camp in South Africa and has been training in his personal 'pain cave' since then.
"The recovery's going really well. I'd go as far as saying it's pretty much complete. I am still doing some exercises off the bike to strengthen that right side that was injured, but I'm back into normal training loads again and that's going really well," Froome said before taking part in a Team Ineos Zwift race two weeks ago.
Froome would probably share Team Ineos leadership with 2019 winner Egan Bernal and 2018 winner Geraint Thomas but has always been fiercely competitive. He made clear the Tour de France would be his number one goal of 2020, when the new dates of August 29-September 20 were announced.
"Looking at the potential dates set by the UCI, the Tour de France would be my number one target," Froome told Cyclingnews.
"Beyond that, I would hope to do the UCI Worlds, providing it doesn't clash with the Tour de France."
"Depending on the dates of the other Grand Tours, I would also like to do either the Vuelta a España or Giro d’Italia," Froome said. "I'll be discussing my program with [Ineos head coach] Tim Kerrison and the performance team over the coming weeks and will take it from there.
"This is all assuming that things keep heading in the right direction in terms of the COVID-19 situation."
Froome turns 35 on May 20 and so an eventual fifth Tour de France win would make him the second-oldest winner in history, behind only Firmin Lambot, who won in 1922 aged 36.
"He’s not complaining [about the delay], let’s put it that way,” Team Ineos manager Dave Brailsford said told The Times last week.
"The one thing about Chris is wow, the guy can train. What he’s doing in his man cave over there — in the gym in the morning, on the turbo, the hours he is putting in on that thing — that hurts, what he is doing now.
"If it gives him a little edge where he thinks he can train harder than the rest, and make up for lost time when he was injured, he sees that as well as everybody else and he’s making the most of it, there’s no doubt about it."
Going for my 5th @LeTour after my crash last year may seem impossible but I’m here and ready for it 🙌 #nohumanislimited #cycling #comeback pic.twitter.com/85d6IaDKMZApril 25, 2020