When Chris Froome lined up last week at Fleche-Wallonne, he was no doubt hoping for a smooth return to racing following a team training camp in Tenerife, but any chance for that was wiped away when he crashed just 10km from the finish and had to limp across the line, a gaping hole in his shorts revealing the road rash on his hip.
Grateful that he avoided any of the serious injuries that other riders suffered, however, Froome said his own superficial wounds shouldn't hinder him this week as he and Team Sky try to defend his 2013 and 2014 Tour of Romandie titles with a record-setting third consecutive win.
"I'm trying to approach it as a completely new, fresh challenge – especially with the route this year being different," the 2013 Tour de France champion said in an interview published on the team's website.
"There are a few changes, like the team time trial on the first stage," he said. "It is a completely different race. I'm just approaching it as an event that I really want to go well in. It's a race that is always a good building block towards the Tour de France, and it's one of the key races before we get there. It would actually be incredible if I could win Romandie for a third time in a row, but for the moment, I'm just looking at it as another race, and I'll take it one day at a time to get through the week."
Froome's early season build up has suffered through a number of setbacks so far this year. He started his season with an overall win at the Vuelta a Andalucia, but only after illness forced him to withdraw from a planned start at Tirenno-Adriatico. He had two consecutive bad days at the Volta a Catalunya – a race won by teammate Richie Porte – and finished 71st there. After Catalunya, Froome took a break from racing for a team training camp.
"We had a really good training block together up there," he said. "It felt like everyone who went through the camp came out feeling better than when we went in. It was a good block up there and we're going to be going back up soon. I'm actually looking forward to that.
"Hopefully the work we did up there can start to show and pay off in the racing now," he said. "From a personal point of view I feel like I'm definitely in a much better place than I was in Catalunya. Hopefully I'm going to be competitive for the win here in Romandie, which would be great."
Froome will be joined in Switzerland for the race by Peter Kennaugh, Danny Pate, Luke Rowe, Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas and Elia Viviani. Nicholas Roche, who recently hit the pavement hard at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, is also on the Romandie roster.
"The classics guys are back and we've also got Pete Kennaugh who is coming back from injury," Froome said. "He got through the Ardennes alright and it's great to see him back. We've got a really strong squad. Obviously the classics guys have had a great run and now their focus is changing a bit towards stage racing. It's good to be back with them again. It should be a pretty eventful week of racing.”
The addition this year of a summit finish, along with a team time trial stage, could favour Froome's chances for a repeat at Romandie as well. But he's also keeping track of the weather forecasts, which are calling for cold, wet conditions.
"In the last two years we've not had a summit finish," he said. "It's exciting having one this year, especially going up against some of the GC riders who are targeting the Tour. Guys like (Vincenzo) Nibali and (Nairo) Quintana. It will be good to go up against them. We've got a super strong team here so looking at the team time trial I'm hoping we can do something there too.
"The weather looks as if it's going to play quite a big part in the race," Froome continued. "That's something we're going to have to keep an eye on. There's actually snow forecast for Tuesday. So especially on the high mountain day [stage 5] weather could play a key role. We're just going to have to play that one by ear."
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