Israel Start-Up Nation directeur sportif Rik Verbrugghe has confirmed that Chris Froome’s contract with the team does not stipulate guaranteed selection for the Tour de France but he suggested that the four-time winner is likely to be included in the eight-man squad, which is due to be announced on Monday.
Froome placed a distant 47th overall at last week’s Critérium du Dauphiné, during which he acknowledged that he was not going to win this year’s Tour.
“I don't go from this level to winning the Tour de France in a few weeks,” said Froome, who hasn’t won a race since before his severe crash at the 2019 Dauphiné.
Speaking to La Dernière Heure, Verbrugghe said that Michael Woods would lead Israel Start-Up Nation’s general classification challenge at the Tour, while Dan Martin will have the freedom to pursue stage victories. The Belgian said that the Tour could help Froome build towards the Vuelta a España.
“Chris’ fighting spirit is impressive. We are well aware that he is not at a level that would allow him to fight for the general classification of the Tour de France or even for a stage victory, but this race could be an important stepping-stone for the next Vuelta,” said Verbrugghe.
“We will write down the names of the eight riders of our selection on Monday, after the Tour de Suisse and after a meeting of our technical staff.
“Contrary to what I have read or heard, we are not contractually obliged to have Chris in the team for the main event in July, but it could help him to take another essential step in his physical evolution. And also give him a mental boost.”
Froome signed a five-year contract with Israel Start-Up Nation ahead of the 2021 season after parting company with Ineos. The Briton has competed in five stage races so far in 2021, with 47th overall at the UAE Tour and the Dauphiné his highest finish.
“Our selection will be built around Michael Woods, who will go for GC, and Dan Martin who will aim for stages,” said Verbrugghe.
“Behind them, we’ll lack a bit of depth in the mountains because we’ll be without [Alessandro] De Marchi, [Daryl] Impey and [Carl Fredrik] Hagen. Krists Neilands fractured his collarbone only a short time ago but we still hope he can recover in time for the Grand Départ in Brest.”
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