When Chris Froome was put into intensive care after crashing his bike in June 2019, there was good reason to believe he would never compete again. The seven-time Grand Tour winner was preparing to make it number eight and was one of the favourites until he broke his leg, several ribs, and an elbow in the Loire town of Roanne.
He was travelling at 37mph when he lost control and collided with a wall. A return looked unlikely, but the British rider committed to getting back on a bike and racing again. His story echoes that of Fabio Jakobsen, who won Stage 2 of the Tour de France in 2022 less than two years after suffering life-threatening injuries in the Tour of Poland.
Emotional return to form
Fast forward more than three years from Froome’s crash and it was hard for bike fans not to feel a twinge of emotion as the British rider crossed the line in third place after climbing the Alpe d’Huez on the Queen stage of the 2022 Tour de France. It was Froome’s first podium finish since his crash and it came in one of the sport’s most famous locations. The result was significant, but it was also about the way he did it. Joining the breakaway and then holding the position in the toughest section of the race, while the top contenders in the cycling betting odds including 5/12 favourite Jonas Vingegaard, battled it out for the yellow jersey behind him. Few would have backed him in the Tour de France betting this year, but is another Gran Tour out of the question?
Proving the critics wrong
The podium result was redemption for Froome who had defied the critics who suggested he should retire. He previously stated that such criticism acted as motivation to get back to the top of the sport. Now aged 37, retirement cannot be too far away, but Froome intends to bow out on his own terms. And his performance at the 2022 Tour de France suggests that he might have a few more moments in the sun before he finally steps off the bike for good.
He might take inspiration from the likes of Alejandro Valverde, who finished 11th in the 2022 Giro d’Italia aged 42 before getting hit by a car (avoiding serious injury). That’s the same age as the oldest ever Grand Tour winner, Chris Horner, who won the Vuelta a España in 2013. With that in mind, we could see Froome in the peloton for a few years yet, providing he can continue to secure a contract.
Next up, La Vuelta
Froome rode for Team Ineos from their foundation in 2010 but left in 2020. He penned a big money contract with Israel–Premier Tech and has repaid that faith with his 2022 form. With a Grand Tour stage podium under his belt, Froome will now push to improve further. He is expected to feature in this year’s final Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España, which gets underway in the Netherlands on August 19. The Brit won the Vuelta in 2011 and 2017 and completed a Tour de France/Vuelta double in 2017. He was featured in the 2020 edition of the race. finishing 98th in the general classification.
He finished 133rd in last year’s Tour de France but is on course for a top-30 finish in 2022. That should set him up nicely for an attempt at a top-10 finish in Spain. If he can achieve that, the prospect of another Grand Tour win in 2023 will not seem so outlandish. And when you see the mental fortitude of a man like Chris Froome, you start to believe that anything is possible.