“It’s been an interesting start, but I don’t think the race has really started yet. Tomorrow, for sure, is going to have an impact,” said Team Ineos manager David Brailsford.
Little did Brailsford know that those words, spoken the day before the time trial in the Criterium du Dauphine, would prove prophetic in a way he could hardly have imagined.
The impact occurred between Chris Froome and a wall at the base of a descent as he was finishing a recon of the time trial course in Roanne he’d race later in the day. Froome apparently took a hand off the bars to clear his nose when a gust of wind threw his front wheel off course.
Teammate Wout Poels was with Froome when the accident happened. “We were after the climb on the downhill and the wind took Chris Froome’s wheel and he went down like really, really hard on the floor, and I think we were going 66 or 65kph. It was really bad,” said Poels.
The medical report indicates Froome has a fractured right femur and elbow along with several fractured ribs. In an instant, his hopes of winning a record-tying fifth Tour de France were wiped out. The impacts will immediately spread across Team Ineos and all the riders and teams hoping to win this year’s Tour, that commences July 6th in Brussels.
Even with Froome gone, Ineos will field a strong squad with reigning Tour champion Geraint Thomas and Colombian Egan Bernal, himself the victim of a training crash in May that wrecked his chance to lead the team in the Giro d’Italia.
That said, the absence of Froome will inevitably open the race up. Top rivals such as Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Romain Bardet (AG2R), Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) will all feel their odds of victory have definitely improved.
Ineos will still have the firepower to control the race in the mountains but there’s no question teams will be emboldened to attack earlier and more often. It won’t be a feeding frenzy but we expect Ineos will be severly tested.
Last season, Froome’s exhausting Giro d’Italia win and the emergence of a strong Geraint Thomas derailed his hopes of joining that select club of five time Tour winners like Merckx, Indurain and Hinault. This year it was a cruel gust of wind.
Reactions to his injury carried the usual sports cliche — he’ll come back better and stronger. However, Froome will be 35 if he is able to take the start for the 2020 Tour. Has his opportunity to win five now been ruined?
A story by Joe Lindsey on the implications of Froome’s crash suggests that riding next years’ Tour would be improbable. He cites a small study of athletes that broke their femurs — average recovery time, 9.5 months.
It was a bad, bad crash. And sadly for Froome, the full impact won’t be known for quite some time.