Cherie Pridham, sports director for Israel Start-Up Nation, says Chris Froome's recovery is "almost 99% done" and talked up his chances of winning a record-equalling fifth Tour de France.
Froome has struggled since his horror crash that ended his 2019 season and saw him visibly struggling to regain his top racing form at the end of 2020.
Pridham, the WorldTour’s first female DS, was speaking to The Bradley Wiggins Show, which returns for a new series on Monday.
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"[Given] the extent of the injuries that Chris has had to deal with, and the recuperation and rehab that he’s had to go through, we spent a lot of time as a team making sure that Chris’ rehab has been where we need it to be,” she said, explaining that the recent UAE Tour had provided plenty of positive indicators for his comeback.
“Although he might be a little bit behind in where we need to be, with Chris, every day at UAE he was feeling better and better.”
Pridham emphasised the importance of providing sufficient support, not just to Froome, but to the full Israel Start-Up Nation roster.
“I think we’ve got to believe, haven’t we?," she said.
"And give him as much support, likewise all the guys. We’ve got to remember that Chris is Chris Froome, but we have a whole team of super-good riders, [Sep] Vanmarcke, Daryl Impey, Dan Martin, Paddy Bevin, all those guys that can do a good job.”
Asked if Froome could finally attain his elusive fifth Tour de France title, which many said was put beyond his grasp by the Dauphiné recon ride crash in 2019, Pridham said she believed the feat was still possible.
“Why not? It’s one of the instrumental reasons why we brought him on board, you know, to give that a go," she said.
"We’re a long way out still in terms of thinking about the Tour de France, but we are building in the background and I think from what I’ve seen and heard from his coaches, and from the performance team, that you know, he’s on track. Mainly and most importantly, he’s recovering – his rehab is almost 99% done.”
At the time of the conversation with The Bradley Wiggins Show, Pridham said she was not able to provide any details of Froome’s race programme.
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The overall tone of the discussion of Froome’s chances was positive, but it was certainly interesting to observe the mention of the team’s other star names. It’s no exaggeration to say that all these riders – Impey, Martin, Bevin and Vanmarcke – are capable of getting good results, to say nothing of Mike Woods who is looking in fine form so far this year. But does that hint at a shift away from Froome being the tent-pole rider for Israel Start-Up Nation?
We are now well into March, with the Tour set to start on June 26, roughly a week earlier than it usually would begin to accommodate the Olympics. If we can take the statement about Froome’s rehab being 99% done at face value, then he has less than four months to build some Tour-winning form. It seems an uphill battle, even for a proven-winner such as he.
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