Tour de France 2021 – ‘I don’t see any reason for hope’ – Hinault on Chris Froome’s Tour chances

Otto I. Eovaldi

What exactly has it taken to rebuild Chris Froome to the level he is at today, and is it possible for him to regain the level that saw him win four Tours de France?

We have seen already this week at the Volta a Catalunya that his fitness levels are not where they must be come June, but ‘under the bonnet’ there are causes for optimism, his team says.
Eurosport France’s Christophe Gaudot spoke with Paulo Saldanha, the key man in charge of guiding Froome’s recuperation based in California this off-season. That process involved a lot of physical work first. Precision work we are told: balance, strength, concentric work, when the muscle pushes a load, and eccentric, conversely when it holds it, the “blood flow restriction” which consists of compressing a limb to simulate high intensity.

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Putting Froome back together was a long process. That’s why he skipped the planned team training camp in Spain and instead stayed in the US.

“We needed another three weeks to get Chris where he needed to be,” Saldanha said.

Strength and rehabilitation work were the priority. It then took longer to develop the shape on the bike than we had hoped.

Saldanha went on to say:

At the same time, we also did very specific exercises on the bike to facilitate the transfer of strength and power.

Israel Start-Up Nation are fully committed to its new leader, and are pleased with the results:

“His strength and balance are better than before the accident, it is believed. Of course, his fitness on the bike is not there yet,” added Saldanha.

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While the sounds coming from the Israel Start-Up Nation camp are positive, that belief is not matched in other quarters. French cycling legend, Bernard Hinault, a member of the five-Tour club which Froome dearly wishes to join, had this to say on the Briton’s prospects.

“I don’t see any reason for hope,” he said.

If he could get back to his best, he would have already done it!

For as long as he can remember, the ‘Badger’ also said he has never seen a cyclist return to his best at this age after such a serious injury.

The task ahead of Saldanha, Froome and the team is made even more difficult by a new generation riding at an exceptionally high level.

“No one can say whether he would have been at the level of the new generation without his injury,” Hinault said. “They have long teeth [they are ambitious], they’re not going to give him room!”

To a great extent, it feels as though Froome belongs to a generation that has been swept away by the new kids on the block, but it is fair to say he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to go up against the Pogačars, the van Aerts and the Bernals on an equal footing.

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“Talent doesn’t evaporate,” Saldanha adds.

There are many examples of athletes performing at their best well after 30 years. There is no reason for Chris to be any different.

“If the planets align – the state of form, the power, the health, the state of mind – he can be in the fight,” added Saldanha. “The level [in the peloton] is very competitive now, but Chris is a fighter and he knows how to win. If his body perseveres and responds correctly to the stimulations he receives, then he can be competitive.”

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