Of the many qualities which have helped make Chris Froome the greatest Grand Tour rider of his generation, key amongst them has been his resilience.
Now he will need all of it to get himself back to the top of the sport after a devastating crash at the Criterium du Dauphine put him in intensive care and left his hopes of a fifth Tour de France win this summer in ruins.
When Froome first began to emerge as a contender to win a three-week race eight years ago, it was easy to underestimate him.
He looked awkward on the bike and was softly spoken off it, and hardly seemed like a man to strike fear into his rivals, let alone go on to win six grand tours to date and, in 2018, to become the first man to hold all three titles at the same time since Bernard Hinault in 1983.
But those that did not know him would have missed his stubborn streak, his refusal to give in when events turn against him.
It is the quality that helps him grind up mountain climbs. Rivals may occasionally race clear with explosive attacks, but Froome never panics as he gradually reels them back in.
That steely streak also helped propel him to arguably his greatest Grand Tour win, last year’s Giro d’Italia, when he used an audacious, meticulously-planned attack 80km from the finish of stage 19 to overhaul his rivals and wipe out a three-minute deficit.
And it ensured he could do all of that as the Salbutamol case hung over him before he was eventually cleared of a doping offence on the eve of last year’s Tour.
Now he faces an altogether different challenge. Wednesday’s crash, when Froome came off his bike at 55kmh and struck a wall, has left him with a broken femur, a broken elbow and broken ribs.
All the evidence from riders who have suffered similar injuries suggest he will not race again this season.
Instead, Froome will begin the 2020 campaign, and the last year of his current contract with Team Ineos, closing in on his 35th birthday in May.
Froome began this season with everything built around his goal of winning a record-equalling fifth Tour de France title, which would move him level with Hinault, Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain and Jacques Anquetil.
If he is to still achieve this, he will need to become the oldest man of the modern era to win cycling’s biggest race. Only one man older than 35 has ever won it, and Firmin Lambot’s victory aged 36 came in 1922.
A late bloomer in his career, Froome has spoken of late of continuing for several more years, believing he could continue to compete at the highest level until his late thirties.
It would be a tall order, made taller now by the hard work that will lay ahead in rehabilitation, but the cycling world has learned not to bet against him.
“One of the things which sets Chris apart is his mental strength and resilience,” Ineos team principal Sir Dave Brailsford said after the crash.
“We will support him totally in his recovery, help him to recalibrate and assist him in pursuing his future goals and ambitions.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
UAE Team Emirates continued their record-breaking season with another win – this time courtesy of young Slovenian talent Tadej Pogacar, who became a national Individual Time Trial Champion over the weekend.
His fifth victory of the season was taken on the 44km TT course in Ljubljana and is his first national professional title after beating former UAE Team Emirates rider Matej Mohoric (+29″) and Jan Tratnik (+45″), both from Bahrain-Merida.
Pogacar said: “I was aware of the high level of the competitors, especially considering Mohoric and Tratnik were competing, however I was well trained and worked hard after the Tour of California.
“In the first part of the course I set a regular pace, close to my limit, and in the second half I pushed as hard as I could. I’m really satisfied with my performance and with this beautiful national title.”
1 Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates) 49’34”
2 Matej Mohoric (Bahrain-Merida) + 29″
3 Jan Tratnik (Bahrain-Merida) +45″
As fans of UAE Team Emirates count down the days until the Tour de France, the team has been busy assembling a solid squad of riders to support their General Classification hopeful Dan Martin at the Criterium du Dauphine (June 9-16).
Often considered as the ultimate preparation for the Tour, the eight-stage race will see the team take on two tough days of climbing in the mountains, three hilly days of rolling terrain and classified climbs, two flatter stages that are set up for the sprinters and a 26.1km Individual Time Trial.
Ahead of the race, Martin said: “The Dauphine is a race I always enjoy. Racing on the French roads against a high level of competition is the perfect preparation for the Tour de France.
“Training has gone well and I feel good although I’m not sure on my expectations having not raced since Liege. It is always an unknown how the first race back will go but the aim is to get a good week of racing in the legs and to continue building towards July.
“I’ve performed well in the last few years at the race so am aiming to enjoy the race and hope the legs are there to be aggressive at some point in the week.”
Joining Irishman Martin is Norway’s Vegard Stake Laengen, Colombian Cristian Munoz, Australian Rory Sutherland and Italy trio Simone Petilli, Edward Ravasi and Oliviero Troia.