Chris Froome will lead Team Sky in next month’s Giro d’Italia as he targets victory in a third straight Grand Tour event despite an ongoing probe into an adverse doping test, the team announced Friday.
The British rider is taking part in the event, which starts from May 4 to 27.
Froome admitted there was a risk in making a serious assault on the Giro so close to his expected attempt to retain his Tour de France title, but said he would regret it for the rest of his career if he did not attempt it.
He completed an historic Tour de France-Vuelta a Espana double in September.
“The Giro is special and full of history, and I am looking forward to racing it again after almost a decade,” said Froome.
“I’ve had a different start to the season as I’ve obviously been aiming to try and reach my peak quite a bit earlier than usual. But the target of going for a third consecutive Grand Tour has given me new motivation.
“Of course there is an element of risk involved in targeting the Giro before the Tour, but I think I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t give this race a go.”
Froome, 32, has been embroiled in a legal and scientific wrangle with the International Cycling Union’s (UCI’s) independent anti-doping unit since he returned an adverse analytical finding for the asthma drug salbutamol at the Vuelta a Espana.
Referring to the test, he said: “I also recognise the wider issues and as I have said before I am doing everything I can, together with the team, to help resolve them as quickly as possible.
“In the meantime I am focused on racing. I would love to win the maglia rosa (the pink jersey for the winner of the Giro), but I am under no illusions whatsoever about how hard the race will be.”
Froome insists there has been no wrongdoing on his or the team’s part.
Although salbutamol is permitted in certain doses, Froome gave a urine reading of twice the allowed limit. The investigation is ongoing and Froome continues to compete.
The other members of Team Sky for the Giro are David de la Cruz, Kenny Elissonde, Sergio Henao, Vasil Kiryienka, Christian Knees, Wout Poels and Salvatore Puccio.
Team principal Dave Brailsford said: “Chris is also going for a third consecutive Grand Tour. Everyone in cycling knows just how tough that is. We have a strong, talented and versatile team supporting him. Every rider will have an important contribution to make.
“This year’s race promises to be a very tough edition with some of the hardest mountain climbs in cycling including Mount Etna and the Zoncolan.”
It was Costa’s seventh such finish this season, having clinched three top-10s at the Tour of Oman in February.
Astana rider Omar Fraile won the first stage on Wednesday as Slovenian Primoz Roglic claimed the overall lead.
Fraile edged out Italian Sonny Colbrelli in a sprint finish at the end of the 166.6km ride to Delemont to continue Astana’s
excellent recent spell with their 14th win of the season.
Australian Michael Matthews, who won Tuesday’s prologue, was dropped on the final climb and lost the yellow jersey to Roglic.
It was a commendable performance nonetheless from Costa, who said: “We raced with the right mentality, according to the indications that the sports directors gave in the pre-race meeting.”
“We controlled the race with Bono and then on the last climb I tried first and then Dan Martin tried, and he created a good gap.
“In the end, the other teams kept it together. I gave it my all and took a good third place.”
Best for UAE Team Emirates were: Kristijan Durasek (29th), Dan Martin (30th), Anass Ait el Abdia (72nd), Darwin Atapuma (75th), Matteo Bono (110th), Roberto Ferrari (128th).
Thursday’s stage sees the peloton tackle a 173.9 km ride from Delemont to Yverdon-les-Bains in West Switzerland.
UAE Team Emirates’ Rui Costa has set his sights firmly on a fourth podium finish in the General Classification at this year’s Tour de Romandie which gets underway on Tuesday.
The Portuguese rider is brimming with confidence after a series of strong performances in the Ardennes Classics and is now hoping to add to his impressive achievements, which already includes third place finishes at the Swiss race in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Commenting ahead of the tour, the 31-year-old. said: “I’m looking forward to Romandie and it’s allowed me to get on the podium three times.
“Usually after Liege-Bastogne-Liege, my general condition is good, which gives me the confidence to battle for the overall victory as well as trying to win a stage. I hope that’s the case again this year.”
Team mate Dan Martin also returns to the Tour de Romandie after last riding the stage race in 2015 where he finished 104th.
The duo head to Switzerland from Belgium, fresh off the back of Liege-Bastogne-Liege on Sunday – a race in which UAE Team Emirates performed effectively, controlling the peloton for long sections of the 256km route.
The race was eventually won by Bob Jungels (Quick Step), who produced yet another surprise victory to take top spot ahead of Michael Woods (Team EF) and Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale).
Unfortunately luck was not on the side of Irishman Martin, who suffered a puncture whilst chasing down the breakaway with a select group of riders.
The misfortune happened with only 8kms to go, preventing the team’s leader from closing the gap and contending another podium finish at the biggest monument of the season.
The 31-year-old said: “I’ve punctured in the worst of moments and when I saw my front wheel was completely flat, I could not believe it. Now I hope to profit from my hard work at the Tour of Romandie.
“I’m going back again after last participating in 2015, so I know I’ll face a particularly demanding edition of the Swiss race. There’s not going to be one simple stage and it’ll be interesting to see how they’ve routed the two time trials.
Martin and Costa will be joined in Romandie by leading Colombian climber Darwin Atapuma, Kristijan Durasek, Roberto Ferrari, Anass Ait El Abdia and Matteo Bono.
Tuesday’s first stage will see the peloton tackle the challenging 166.6km ride from Fribourg to Delemont, which features four intermediate climbs before the race ends on a descent.