• Team Ineos at the 2019 Tour de France presentation. (Getty)Source: Getty
Chris Froome has left hospital more than three weeks after a crash that ended his season and a record-equalling fifth Tour de France title bid this month.
Sophie Smith

Cycling Central
6 Jul 2019 - 9:20 AM  UPDATED 6 Jul 2019 - 9:23 AM

The four-time race champion was notably absent from Ineos’s pre-Tour press conference in Brussels, Belgium on Friday, where team principal David Brailsford confirmed the news.

“He left hospital yesterday. It’s a big step,” said Brailsford.

The 34-year-old suffered from a fractured right leg, fractured elbow and ribs when he crashed at 55km/h on a recon ride of the Stage 4 time trial at the Criterium du Dauphine in June. Froome, who got thrown off balance when he went to wipe his nose in windy conditions on the recon, was rushed into intensive care and later underwent a six-hour surgery to correct injuries.

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“He’s managed to put his feet on the floor for the first time in quite a long time actually. Quite a few of the guys here have been to see him, visit him, and everyone thinks he is in remarkable spirits for the situation he has found himself in. He’s doing pretty well,” Brailsford continued.

Froome’s absence from the Tour de France has been tipped to change the dynamic of the mountainous race that many consider will now be more open without the Briton.

However, there are equally still plenty of pundits who believe Ineos, which has won six Tour titles in the past seven years, formerly as Sky, are still the squad to beat.

Defending champion Geraint Thomas headlines the outfit along with Colombian sensation Egan Bernal. Dylan van Baarle has replaced Froome in what is otherwise an unchanged line-up from last season.

Thomas is sporting a very lean frame and appeared relaxed ahead of his title assault that starts Saturday. The 33-year-old won two consecutive stages en route to a maiden maillot jaune in 2018 ahead of Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) and Froome.

The Welshman crashed out of the Tour de Suisse last month but didn’t harbour on it in Brussels.

“I had such a great race last year, amazing experience, and I’d love to experience that again. I think it also just takes a bit of pressure off,” Thomas said. “I’ve done it now. I wanted that one race with no bad luck, and I’ve had that. I don’t feel I’ve got to prove anything.”

Bernal, who was MVP to Thomas and Froome in the mountains last season and finished 15th overall, will be a talking point of the entire race. The climber, who has lived at altitude his whole life, is only a second-year professional but is handling the noise outside of the Tour with a graceful and calm demeanour akin to Froome.

“We’ve got two great leaders,” said Brailsford. “Of course, it’s a big disappointment for everyone that Chris isn’t here. We wish him well on his road to recovery. But nonetheless sport is sport and a new baseline, move forward.

“We’ve these two either side we couldn’t want for a better team. It’s an extremely exciting prospect for us to get going. We’re all looking forward to it.”

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