Chris Froome says he will help Israel Start-Up Nation leader Michael Woods in the same manner he himself was helped as he won the Tour de France four times on his return after a two-years gap. Froome suffered multiple injuries at the Criterium du Dauphine in 2019 and has since changed teams from Ineos to ISN, who included the Briton in their Tour team as support for the in form Canadian Woods.
“It feels great to be able to give something back, I’m only focused on supporting the guys around me. A similar job has been done for me previously, and now I’m glad to be on the other side, giving something back,” said Froome, who reportedly earns 5 million dollars a year with ISN.
While he said his team hoped to place Woods high in the general classification Froome admitted that the main favorites would be tough to beat.
“Tadej Pogacar isn’t slowing down is he?” Froome said of the defending champion.
“Primoz Roglic is really strong and has a good team around him while Ineos has multiple leaders,” Froome pointed out. Froome’s return to the race after a two years absence has special significance, he said as it embarks from the Atlantic port of Brest.
“Given that Brest was where I first discovered the Tour de France as a neo-pro in 2008, it brings things full circle.
“I’ll be heading to this Tour with a similar mindset to my fist one,” said Froome, who has shown deep determination to get back on a Tour roster.
“Hopefully, it will be a stepping stone for me to get back to my former level. It puts my recovery period behind me,” he said.
“I have missed being there. The first year I watched from a wheelchair, I enjoyed being a fan again, thoroughly enjoyed just watching and being a fan.” the winner in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 said his team had many goals.
“I’m awaiting the start anxiously and my key role is to help keep Woodsy out of trouble,” he said. “But winning a stage would be massive for ISN.”
The ISN sports director Rik Verbrugghe raised some eyebrows when he included Froome on his roster as the ex-champion searches for form.
Verbrugghe dismissed doubts on Wednesday.
“I expect something from Chris, he may surprise you in this Tour de France,”
The Canadian team leader Woods said he felt having the experience of Froome and also of Ireland’s Dan Martin would help his push for a top-five finish.
“I took a stage win or came close in the last two races I was in and I’m excited to be leading this team. Chris (Froome) brings experience and Dan (Martin) has won on the ‘Mur’ (steep climb in Brittany) which we tackle on stage two.
“But this is also an opportunity for me to represent Canada, so if I can win a stage and if that helps get Canadians riding bikes, I’ll be a happy man.”
Israel Start-Up Nation is in its second season at World Tour level and was co-founded by Israeli-Canadian real estate tycoon and cycling enthusiast Sylvain Adams.
“The entire world is tuned in, its a symbol of achievement that we have made it here to the Tour de France, and this year we hope to make some noise,” said Adams by zoom call from Vancouver.
RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini