Chris Froome’s day in the breakaway at Tour of the Alps is the most encouraging sign yet that he is beginning to improve ahead of the Tour de France in June.
Today, the Israel StartUp Nation rider stretched his legs, making it into a solid nine-man escape move that animated the race and managed to stay clear until the final climb of the day.
As expected, it was the GC riders who took the top spots on the stage, after a fearless descending display from Simon Yates (Team BikeExchange), Aleksandr Vlasov (Astana) and eventual stage winner Pello Bilbao (Bahrain Victorious).
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Froome crossed the line well down on these three riders, shipping some further 14 minutes on general classification, landing him in 94th place overall. Clearly, the Tour of the Alps overall victory is not within his grasp at this point, even if he were to ‘pull a Landis’ as George Bennett described his 2018 Giro attack on the Colle delle Finestre. But that is not what the race is about for Froome this year.
For one thing Israel Start-Up Nation’s sports directors will be pleased to see Froome getting himself in the mix. The sponsors, too, will be relieved to see their multi-million euro marquee rider on the TV cameras for being at the front of a race, not being spat out the back of it.
Froome said in a pre-race press conference that he saw the Tour of the Alps as an opportunity to see “exactly where I’m at” as he “moves forward towards bigger goals in the season”. We know what the bigger goals are (or is) of course, and we are getting a pretty clear idea of where he’s at.
He also added, “I feel good. I’m continuing to see progression, which is the main thing for me at the moment. I’ve just come down after another altitude block in Tenerife.
My feelings are getting better and I’m looking forward to racing this week and seeing any progressions.
Froome has one more day of racing in the Italian alps before heading to Switzerland for the Tour du Romandie starting on Tuesday. Romandie is a race he has won twice, with the first occasion coming in a year where he went on to win the Tour de France.
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After Romandie, Froome will enjoy around a month off, before coming back to racing with the Criterium du Dauphiné on 30 May, a race that became emblematic of his preparations for a successful Tour de France during his peak Team Sky years.
His level and results at Romandie and then the Dauphiné will tell us more – and, for those in the Israel StartUp Nation camp – hopefully show some bigger improvements as Chris Froome hones in on the start of Le Tour on 26 June.
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