(Reuters) – Four-times Tour de France champion Chris Froome says he is ahead of schedule in his recovery from a horrific crash in June that ended his 2019 season and is already targeting next year’s race in a quest for a record-equalling fifth title.
The 34-year-old Briton missed last month’s Tour after he broke his neck, femur, elbow, hip and ribs in a 54 km/hr crash at the Criterium du Dauphine less than four weeks before the start of the Tour.
“For me the underlying goal is to get to the start line in 2020 and be at a similar or better position than I was this year. That’s what is driving me at the moment,” Froome said.
“It’s safe to say I’m ahead of all the predictions made initially of how long it would take,” he added in his first interview https://twitter.com/TeamINEOS/status/1157546643908153345 since the crash on the Team Ineos twitter account.
“The news from the surgeon when he said I could make a full recovery and there’s nothing stopping me, that’s all I wanted to hear at that point. From then, everything was so positive. I was incredibly lucky not to be more seriously injured.”
In his absence, his team mates Colombian Egan Bernal and last year’s winner Welshman Geraint Thomas finished first and second to give Team Ineos — formerly Team Sky — their seventh title in the last eight editions of the race.
Froome described how a gust of wind funnelled through buildings veered him off course as he tried to blow his nose during a practice ride and his first question after the crash was whether he would recover in time to race on the Tour.
“I can remember lying on the ground and the first responders coming over to me,” Froome said. “I can remember speaking to them (his team) and my first question was ‘Can I get back on my bike’ and ‘Am I going to be alright for the Tour de France?’.
“They very quickly put that out of my mind. They made it very clear that I wasn’t moving anywhere and I should lie still and that I wouldn’t be carrying on the rest of the race.”
Froome was airlifted to St Etienne University Hospital and stayed in intensive care after hours of surgery on broken bones.
“Those first moments were the ones that really hit home and I took it on board that I’m not going to be racing the Tour de France this summer,” he added.
“It almost felt like a scene from Grey’s Anatomy or something. It hit home that there was more going on.”
Froome has started physiotherapy and posted a video last week of himself back home pedalling with one leg on an exercise bike.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Ken Ferris)