Chris Froome is confident that he is past the rehab stage of his recovery from his huge 2019 crash, and could compete in the Tokyo Olympics.
The British rider was racing for Team Ineos when he crashed into a wall as he prepared for the 2019 Criterium du Dauphine in France.
He returned to competitive action in 2020 to race in the UAE Tour, and was also able to use the suspension of the season due to the coronavirus pandemic to put in extra hours in the gym.
A 98th place finish at the Vuelta a Espana and a failure to be included in the Ineos team for the Tour de France made it clear his time with the squad was over, and he has since moved to Israel Start-Up Nation.
In order to get back to racing form, Froome has been using the Red Bull Athlete Performance Center in California over the winter. After his crash and the follow-up surgery, work needed to be done to improve the strength in his right quad muscle.
Speaking on the Red Bull website, Froome explained: “I’ve probably been doing four two-hour sessions most weeks at the Red Bull Athlete Performance Center in Santa Monica but we’ve been whittling that down to two sessions a week as the riding has been picking up.
“We felt that balance has been achieved and I’m doing enough to stay on top of things while shifting focus back to the bike again.
“I can finally say that I’m confident the rehab process is behind me now. It’s always going to be a weakness I’m going to have to work on until the end of my career. But in terms of the figures I’m seeing on the bike, I’ve got to the same if not even better left-right balance than I was prior to the crash. That’s extremely encouraging.
“I’ve still got a lot of work ahead of me in terms of focusing on race fitness but as a starting point this has put me in really good stead.”
Froome also addressed the change in pace, and his role as a 35-year-old veteran in his new team.
“It was a big change for me – going to a smaller set-up, a team that’s not lined with superstars, but it’s refreshing. No disrespect at all to ISN but it feels like we’re starting almost with a blank piece of paper when it comes to the Grand Tours, which is pretty exciting to be part of,” Froome explained.
“I think at my age it’s quite a refreshing approach to be on the forefront of helping the team build a new group and a new campaign. I’m not just part of the same old thing that has been going for year after year.”
Despite shifting to a smaller side with fewer resources, Froome still maintains he could yet challenge for another Grand Tour, pointing to the increased longevity of athletes.
“Being so close to the record, I can’t say I’m stopping at four and not at least give it my best shot to try and get number five,” Froome said.
Froome: I am not done yet – I want a fifth Tour title
“I also think there are also a lot of preconceived notions, certainly in sport, that once you hit your 30s, you’re on a downward spiral.
“Everything has changed in the last few years and there’s a lot more data available. We know a lot more about our bodies and how to look after ourselves beyond the ages that were previously given as a career-ending point for athletes in sport.
“More and more now, we’re seeing cases where athletes are going longer due to better nutrition, better training, and looking after themselves properly. I’d also like to be on the forefront of that and proving it can be done into your late 30s.
“In the last two years since I’ve been away from the Tour de France, the sport has changed significantly. There are a lot of really strong young riders coming through and a lot of talent coming into the WorldTour. It’s going to be a very different race but I’m looking forward to it.”
“I’d love to get to the Olympics as well, but that obviously depends on selection and how that goes.”