Israel Start-Up Nation director sportif Rik Verbrugghe has shed further light on Chris Froome's rehabilitation and training processes after it was announced that the Briton would miss his new team's training camp in Girona to stay in California.
The four-time Tour de France winner is continuing to work on his recovery from a career-threatening crash he suffered at the 2019 Critérium du Dauphiné at the Red Bull Centre in Santa Monica.
He was set to meet up with his new teammates in Israel for ISN's first camp of 2021, but that was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and now the rest of the team will work in Spain instead. Verbrugghe said that Froome is on track to his old self.
"The centre in Santa Monica is so good that we chose to keep him there for another month instead of coming to training camp in Girona," Verbrugghe told Het Nieuwsblad. "Chris is on the right track to become the 'old' Chris again.
"On Tuesday I had a Zoom meeting with Froome, our head of coaching Paulo Saldinha, and general manager Kjell Carlström. He's getting stronger again. Saldinha flew from Canada to see Chris at work in also testified. His rehabilitation is going well and he's able to regain as much strength in his right leg as his left."
Froome suffered a laundry list of injuries in the 2019 crash, including a broken right femur, right elbow and fractured ribs. He returned to racing at last year's UAE Tour, going on to race 44 days during the pandemic-affected season.
The 35-year-old didn't show the form of old, but Verbrugghe explained that the break in racing and European lockdowns from March to late July disrupted Froome's recovery process. He added that Froome today is a lot different to how he was at the Vuelta a España, where he finished 98th overall.
"The Froome of the Vuelta is not the Froome of today. Due to the lockdown in Monaco last year in March and the distance to his team, his rehabilitation was not perfect. In the meantime, he has become so much stronger.
"We said wholeheartedly 'don't hesitate to stay [in California].' It would be unwise to interrupt his rehabilitation there now. Plus, we can't offer the same training and climate, and it's quieter there.
"He has already trained quite a bit there, but once he's 100 per cent, the intensity of training will be increased with a view towards competition. Both he and ISN leadership are convinced it's better for him to stay there for another month and then fly back in February."
Froome is set to kick off his season at the Volta ao Algarve, though Verbrugghe said that's not fully set in stone, with the Vuelta a Andalucía and UAE Tour also options. He was set to kick off 2021 at the Vuelta a San Juan, but COVID-19 means it's unlikely that international teams will be invited, though Froome is already off the start list.
After Algarve, the path to the Tour de France – and hopefully for Froome and ISN, a fifth victory – is set. He'll head to the Volta a Catalunya and then to the Critérium du Dauphiné ahead of the Grand Départ in Brittany.
"The Tokyo Olympics are in the plan, too," Verbrugghe said. "But first his federation has to select him. In addition to that, we need to look at how things stand with the possible quarantine measures."
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Daniel joined Cyclingnews as staff writer in August 2019 after working as a freelance journalist for seven years, including time spent working for Cyclingnews and sister magazine, Procycling.
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