Dubai: Amid the swift actions to suspend the UAE Tour after two Italian participants were found to have contracted coronavirus, one man who must have had another lingering concern at the back of his mind is Chris Froome.
Not only — and rightfully — is he concerned for the welfare of all involved in the cycling event that was cut short this week due to the outbreak, but he is now rapidly running out of time to get his body into shape for a bid to claim a record-breaking fifth Tour de France title this summer.
The British rider was using the UAE Tour as a springboard to fitness after a harrowing crash last year that almost ended his career.
However, after a few quiet days in the peloton in the UAE, his planning has been thrown into chaos with his confinement to a hotel on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi along with his Ineos teammates — there is only so much you can do in a gymnasium as road cyclist before you need time on the Tarmac to get up to speed.
Froome was like a kid in a candy store last week as he met the press ahead of the curtain-raising Stage 1 of the UAE Tour - “It’s like I am beginnig all over again,” he said - eager to get back in the saddle after a devastating crash in October that left him unable to walk.
The career-threatening accident saw Froome crash into a wall at 37mph in the French town of Roanne during a practice ride for the Criterium du Dauphine in June last year, an incident that left him with multiple broken bones, including a fractured neck, a fractured right femur, a broken hip and fractured ribs. The event threatened to cut short a career in which he had won the Tour de France four times, the Giro d’Italia and two Vuelta a Espana titles.
But after eight months out, he was back on the road again and raring to go — before the coronavirus outbreak intervened.
With next week’s UCI event in Germany also under threat, time is rapidly running out for the Englishman to attune his body for the physical demands of three weeks in the French mountains.
If he does not get into shape, another year will be gone, and goodness knows what his 35-year-old body will be able to take in 2021 given the smashes and strain it has already endured.