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Should Chris Froome be worried about form ahead of Giro-Tour double attempt?

Joe Robinson
12 Mar 2018

As he continues to lose time at Tirreno-Adriatico, the sheer size of Froome's 2018 season could be

At 31st on General Classification and 9 minutes adrift of race leader and teammate Michal Kwiatkowski with two stages remaining, the 2018 Tirreno-Adriatico has been one to forget for Chris Froome (Team Sky).

Whether it be bad form, a matter of pacing himself or the mental fatigue of an ongoing doping investigation, Froome has looked far from his world-beating best rolling around Italy.

This would not have been a worry for the Froome of yesteryear. Tirreno sits a whole four months before the big goal, the Tour de France, which leaves ample time to refine form at subsequent races such as the Criterium du Dauphine, get his team in to order and find the legs that have taken him to four yellow jerseys in five years.

However, this year is different as the 32-year-old decided that he was not just content with a fifth Tour victory, adding a historic attempt at taking the Giro d'Italia in May to his to-do list.

With the start of the Giro just seven weeks away and Froome far from his best, should he be worried ahead of his bid for a first Maglia Rosa.

Yes

Tirreno-Adriatico has furthered many's beliefs that Italy is not a happy hunting ground for Team Sky. It seems as if all the team's bad luck gathers itself within the borders of this one country.

Where to start? Richie Porte's ill-fated puncture at the 2015 Giro. How about Mikel Landa and Geraint Thomas being taken down by an idle motorbike at last year's Giro. Or maybe Gianni Moscon's wheel imploding in the opening team time trial of the 2017 Tirreno. I could go on. 

This has only continued at this year's Tirreno with race leader Thomas jamming his chain on Saturday's summit finish to Sarnano Sassotetto, losing 40 seconds and any chance of race victory in the process.

He finished the stage and simply said 'I just need some good luck at some point.'

While you may not consider 'luck' to be a physical influence, these misfortunes will no doubt sit in the mind of riders and staff and could definitely add an unwanted pressure to Froome's plate come 4th May.

Further mental strains will also be provided by the ongoing salbutamol saga that lingers on. The details of the investigation are well known and need not be explained for yet another time.

However, with it looking as if no conclusions will be made before the Giro, the mass media huddle following Froome will go on, the difficult questions will continue to be asked and the pressure to perform while under the intense spotlight will roll on.

When Froome struggled to keep in contact with the lead group of riders at the Ruta del Sol, the benefit of the doubt was granted. Was he riding within himself to hide amongst his high-profile return to riding? Possibly.

Yet, this lack of pace has rumbled on to Tirreno, and it was clearly visible on Saturday's summit finish that Froome was not just riding within himself.

Losing 1 minute 10 seconds in the final 3.5km showed he currently cannot match the pace of those he would usually leave behind.

If Froome loses the same amount of time to his rivals on the Giro's first summit finish to Mount Etna on Stage 6, his chances of taking the pink jersey will evaporate quickly.

No

Froome's build-up to the 2017 Tour de France was less than spectacular with 18th at the Tour de Romandie and 4th at the Criterium du Dauphine. Many questioned his form before the Tour started and considered this to be the best opportunity to crack his dominance on the race.

While there was a wobble on Stage 7 to Peyragudes it was plain sailing to a fourth yellow jersey come Stage 21 in Paris. Two months later, a first red jersey at the Vuelta a Espana topped off an emphatic year.

Retrospectively, it seemed obvious that Froome was undercooked in the smaller, one-week races. These were not the objectives and he needed more in the tank for back-to-back Grand Tours victories.

This year's Tirreno performance is not so dissimilar to last year's Romandie showing which suggests that come the Giro and later the Tour, Froome will be firing on all cylinders for victory.

Froome is also not alone in his struggles leading up to the Giro.

Take his biggest rival for pink, Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb). Two mechanicals at the Abu Dhabi Tour ruined any chance of overall victory.

This was followed by the Dutchman crashing out of Tirreno on Saturday. Dumoulin is yet to register a noticeable result this season.

Move on to another rival, Esteban Chaves (Mitchelton-Scott) and it is much the same. The smiling Colombian managed to take victory at the Herald Sun Tour yet shined less brightly in his European season opener.

A heavy crash in to the barriers marred Stage 5 of Paris-Nice with the 28-year-old then failing to finish within the time cut on yesterday's final, explosive stage around Nice.

Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) has also been suffering at Tirreno-Adriatico and Fabio Aru (UAE-Team Emirates) has been plucky yet far from ground-breaking in the early months of this season.

With none of Froome's major rivals obviously flying, Froome's own form may not be as big a cause for concern as speculated.

The current form of Froome will probably not act as much of an indication of his form come May and it's hard to consider Froome starting the race far from his best.

However, if we see a similar showing come the first summit finish of the Giro on Mount Etna, the Giro-Tour double dream could quickly come tumbling down.