Chris Froome has made it clear that he intends to the return to the Tour de France this year and attempt to win the French Grand Tour a record-tying fifth time, a feat he says is a "massive" motivation as he returns from devastating injuries suffered in a crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné last June.
In his first video interview of 2020, recorded at Team Ineos' current training cam in Gran Canaria, the four-time Tour de France winner says he has passed out of the rehab phase of his recovery and moved into normal training, with his sites set clearly on July.
"The only appointment I’ve set myself is Tour de France, and until then every week I’m just going to keep chipping away, keep trying to make the most of every camp, every race, building up to July and hope that come that start line in Nice in July, I’ll be ready to go," Froome said in the video published on the Team Ineos website.
Froome's comments come just a day after Team Ineos released a video in which team boss Dave Brailsford announced that 2018 winner Geraint Thomas and 2019 winner Egan Bernal would be co-leaders for the British squad's Tour de France effort.
"As it stands at this moment in time, we are looking at Richard [Carapaz] going to race the Giro [d'Italia] and try and retain his title there, and then for Geraint and Egan to take on the challenge of, and focus on, the Tour, " Brailsford said, adding that Froome was still working toward his spot on the team by returning to top form after more than half a year without serious training, much of that time off the bike completely.
"And of course, Chris coming back," Brailsford said in the Team Ineos video. "He’s still really craving that big fifth win, and he’s working very, very hard to get back to the level required to be competitive. That’s what we are working on, and that’s where we are at now. It’s a good position to be in."
Key period for comeback hopes
Froome joined his teammates at the Gran Canaria camp a week ago and has been taking on a normal training load on the sunny Spanish Island, prompting him to acknowledge he's turned a corner in his rehabilitation from a fractured hip, elbow, femur, sternum and vertebrae suffered in a warm-up crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
"I’ve been given all the green lights now to get back on the bike, and I’m just making that transition now from the rehab phase back into normal training again," Froome said. "So I’m really feeling the fitness at the moment, but you’ve got to start somewhere, and I’m just incredibly fortunate to be back on the bike again and for everything to be working correctly.
"I’m fully conscious that these next few months are going to be pretty tough. There’s going to be a lot of hard work, and I’ve got a lot of ground to make up and to get back to where I was," he said. "But I’ve had amazing support to this point, which has got me here, and now I can just really get stuck into the training and really get the miles in on the bike to try and build up that strength again."
This initial period of training will be crucial for his build up to July, Froome said.
"This is where I’m going to build the foundation for all of the hard work to come. So at the moment it’s just about filling up the hours on the road, really, that I haven’t had for the last six months," he said.
Mental and physical challenges
Turning to the challenges of his attempted comeback from injuries that gave rise to speculation that his career as a Grand Tour rider was over, Froome said the test has been one of the toughest of his career, not only for the physical rebuilding that needs to take place, but also due to the mental challenges along the way.
"It’s been difficult to deal with the losses that I’ve had and sort of coming from such a low point, but at the same time I’ve just been so busy with all the rehab," he said. "On a daily basis I’ve been doing lots of physio and lots of other exercises that I’ve been able to do, and that’s kept me really busy and really stimulated as well, because every week I’ve just been seeing more and more improvements and getting closer to being back on the bike.
"That’s been really positive for me, really encouraging," Froome said. "To be here now, on this training camp with the rest of the team and to be doing the same rides as everyone else, it feels really good to be back in this position now and to be doing basically what I’ve worked since the accident to be able to do. It’s a great feeling."
Although he missed out on a lot of crucial racing and training, Froome's extended break from competition gave him a chance to recharge his mental batteries simply by allowing him to be at home much longer than normal.
"Obviously, not being able to be out on the bike training and racing and everything else has meant that I’ve been able to spend a lot more time at home with the family," he said. "It’s the first time, for example, for years that I can remember spending time with my kids in the summer. So that’s been fantastic."
Froome's video interview closed with the Briton thanking his fans and supporters for their letters and encouragement to see him back on the bike and competing for a firth Tour win, and he promised to give everything in his effort to make it happen.
"The prospect of going for a fifth yellow jersey is just massive for me," Froome said. "It’s such a motivation, but on top of that, now, obviously coming back from this injury, it’s just even more reason for me to try and get back there. I mean there are no guarantees in sport, no guarantees that I’ll be back to challenge for it, but I’m going to give it absolutely everything I’ve got."