The three-time Tour winner crashed out of the event in 2014 before the race even reached the mountain stages, and on stage 2 of this year's race the defending champion was handed a reminder of just how thin the line between success and failure can be when he came down in a fall on the slick, wet roads on the outskirts of Liège.
The fall was caused when Katusha's Reto Hollenstein came down with around 30 kilometres to go. Froome was near the front, attempting to keep out of trouble, but when the Katusha rider slipped on the wet parcours Froome was left with no where to go. He was the first Team Sky rider to hit the deck, but Michal Kwiatkowski, Luke Rowe and Christian Knees were also left needing treatment.
Froome wasn't the only GC contender left to pick himself up off the tarmac, with AG2R's Romain Bardet and BMC Racing's Richie Porte also forced to follow suit and chase back to the bunch. Geraint Thomas, Froome's teammate and the race leader, was also involved in the fall but quickly remounted and avoided a long chase with Froome. Thomas retained his five-second GC lead over Stefan Küng (BMC Racing), although stage winner Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step Floors) moved to within six seconds of the yellow jersey.
Read more on this article
- Another first: Kittel wins Tour de France stage on disc brakes
- Bardet: It could have been worse, that's for sure
- Geraint Thomas remains in Tour de France yellow but team focussed on Chris Froome
- Phinney: It felt like a dream out there
- Tour de France: Stage 2 highlights - Video
- Cavendish: I have a better chance of winning here than if I'm sat at home
Froome made it back to the bunch after a tense chase that was punctuated by a bike change, crossing the line in 37th place, safely in the main field. He was one of the first Team Sky riders to arrive at the team bus and walked straight onto the bus to change his clothing and assess his wounds before a quick warm down on the rollers.
"There are no injuries, thankfully," he told the press after a brief discussion with his mechanic as he warmed down.
"I've just lost a little bit of skin on my backside. That's the nature of the race. We knew that there were slippery conditions, and every time you put your race numbers on you take risks and something could happen. Today there was just a touch of wheels or someone slipped a few wheels ahead of me, and at those speeds you just can't avoid it. A few of us went down, but thankfully everyone is OK and we got to the finish without losing any time to our rivals. That's the main thing."
Sending out a message
The crash halted Froome's and Team Sky's near-perfect start to this year's race after they posted four riders inside the top eight in Saturday's opening time trial. Froome finished sixth in the rain and put time into all of his main rivals, including a valuable 35 seconds into Porte.
Less than a month ago, the Australian handed Froome a thorough beating in the individual test at the Critérium du Dauphiné, leaving the Team Sky man forced to defend his form and decision to start the season in a laboured fashion. A few weeks on from that encounter and it was Froome's turn to talk about momentum.
"I'm very happy given that I'd not had a decent time trial this year. I said at the Dauphiné that I needed to put the work in and it's started to pay off," he told Cyclingnews before this morning's sign on.
"I knew at the Dauphine that things weren't quite right and there were reasons that I wasn't at my best. On a personal level it's great to have an answer for those questions. I hadn't worked on my time trialing that much and I wasn't quite at my best in terms of race fitness. I was light on race days going into the Dauphiné and there were a few reasons that I wasn't at my best."
The opening time trial wasn't without controversy after questions were raised over Team Sky's vortex generator skin suits, with suggestions that it broke UCI protocols. Team Sky stated that article 1.3.033 of the UCI rules had not been broken – and the UCI commissaries at the race did indeed approve the design after the stage. Team Sky have been using the skin suit since the Giro d'Italia in May and have made several adjustments in the weeks and months since.
"That's all news to me," a more relaxed Froome told Cyclingnews.
"I literally heard about it from you guys. I used the skin suit before and the guys on the team used it at the Giro. I used it at the Dauphiné and there haven't been any issues with it.
"We've got great skin suits but at the end of the day it's about the rider. It's something that me and Geraint have worked on extremely hard on over the last few weeks before coming into the Tour and I'm glad it's paid off."