How rebalancing his legs in rehab made Chris Froome believe he could win again

Froome estimates he was riding a 20 percent quad strength deficit on the right side last year. He spent much of his winter in California at the Red Bull High Performance Center in Santa Monica to remedy this imbalance. “Much of the first part of this year has also been devoted to rehabilitation,” he says. “I think it was a necessary step to take, but it probably meant that the driving side of things was compromised. Anyway, I am convinced that this is no longer a factor.

The other reason for Froome’s optimism concerns the necessary break-in period he needs with his new squad, a transition which he says is massively underestimated. “I think people kind of take a rider who changes teams for granted,” he said. “They think it’s going to be the same, only on a different bike, different kits, but these changes can really be quite disruptive. It took me months to really get to grips with all the new equipment; help iron out some small issues.

Once again, Froome is confident they’ve solved these issues now, and he says it will be even more rewarding if he returns to the winner’s circle.

“It was a very different mindset at Ineos,” he says. “You were a pilot and had virtually no interaction with suppliers or daily feedback on technical items. This has all been taken care of for you as a rider so that you can just think about riding a bike, and it works very efficiently.

“At ISN we are much more involved with sponsors, giving feedback directly to vendors and developers. It does take up a bit of head room, but getting more involved would make it, I imagine, even more rewarding. “

Froome cites Mark Cavendish’s return to the Tour, at 36 and after a three-year winning drought, as an example why you should never give up. “I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more,” he said. “He worked his nuts to get into that position.”

In the meantime, he says, he will bow his head and work for designated team leader Michael Woods. His role as road captain means he’ll be responsible for making sure everyone is where they’re supposed to be, that the team doesn’t miss any breaks, that Woods is always protected. Froome describes the Canadian as a “dark horse” for the overall standings, naming Geraint Thomas as the most likely of the Ineos quartet to challenge Slovenian favorites Primoz Roglic and Tadej Pogacar. “The two time trials could really work in G’s favor,” he said.

Froome jokes that we probably won’t see him run to Ventoux this year to protect the yellow jersey, as he did in the Tour’s last showdown against the Giant of Provence in 2016 after being knocked down from his bike. But after everything he’s been through, he’s just grateful to be there. “It’s a very different feeling, but it’s a really big step for me,” he says. “I hope this will take me to the next level.”

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