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August 3, 2019
Photography by Cor Vos
Chris Froome is determined to bid for a record-equaling fifth Tour de France title next year after the horrific injuries he suffered in a crash ruled him out of this year’s edition.
The 34-year-old, whose Ineos teammate Egon Bernal won the Tour last weekend, says he is ahead of schedule in recovering from the accident at the Criterium du Dauphine on June 12 in which he broke his neck, femur, elbow, hip and ribs.
Froome is undergoing three to four hours of physical therapy and two hours of exercises daily, he said in a Team Ineos video, his first interview since the accident, which occurred when he took one hand off the handlebars to blow his nose.
“It’s safe to say I’m ahead of all the predictions made initially of how long it would take,” he said. “The news from the surgeon when he said I could make a full recovery and there’s nothing stopping me — that’s all I wanted to hear at that point. From then, everything was so positive. I was incredibly lucky not to be more seriously injured.”
Froome has seven Grand Tour victories to his name (two wins a the Vuelta a España and one at the Giro d’Italia). In the video, he said his main goal is to be alongside his teammates at next year’s Tour de France, which starts in Nice on June 27.
“For me the underlying goal is to get to the start line in 2020 and be at a similar or better position than I was this year,” he said. “That’s what is driving me at the moment.”
He added that his initial thought after coming off his bike was whether he would be fit for this year’s Tour de France.
“I can remember lying on the ground and the first responders coming over to me,” Froome said. “My coach Tim Kerrison, Garry Blem, my mechanic, and Servais Knaven, my director, were all in the car behind me. I can remember speaking to them and my first question was ‘Can I get back on my bike?’ and ‘Am I going to be alright for the Tour de France?’
“And they very quickly put that out of my mind. They obviously couldn’t give a prognosis but they said it looks like your leg is broken and your arm doesn’t look good either. So no, you’re not going to be on your bike. I think those first few moments are the ones that really sort of hit home and I took it on board that I’m not going be racing the Tour de France this summer. It almost felt like a scene from Grey’s Anatomy or something.”
Froome, who admitted he could “barely breathe after undergoing surgery,” said he found it tough to come to terms with his emotions the day after the accident.
“It was scary when I came round the morning after the operation and felt how hopeless I was lying in that bed,” he said. “Just 24 hours previously I had hoped to win the Dauphine and it was polar opposites. It was quite hard coming to terms with that.”
Froome said the wave of sympathy for him has also been a factor in his desire to return to the fray and bid for the yellow jersey once more. However he will have strong competition from within his own team as to who is the protected leader next year, with both Bernal and 2018 winner Geraint Thomas likely to be lining up.
“It’s been incredible the number of messages I’ve received in hospital, at home and throughout the Tour de France,” he said. “It’s been amazing and just really heartwarming and motivational for me to see how much I’ve been missed in the race this year. It’s motivation for me to want to get back there in the future.”