Froome retains Tour de Romandie title but questions still remain
Prior to the staging of this year’s event, the previous three winners of the Tour de Romandie in Switzerland had also claimed victory in the Tour de France just two months later. When Chris Froome won the time trial in Neuchatel on the final stage of the 2014 renewal, he not only retained the title but proved that he may be recovering from a season blighted by injury and illness.
After completing a second successive victory in the Tour of Oman in February, Froome succumbed to a rather troublesome chest infection and a painful back injury which has not only curtailed his race participation but must also have hampered his training preparations for the more gruelling stage races in later months.
Several of his closest challengers for honours this summer have already competed in the spring stage races and the Tour de Romandie was the ideal opportunity for Froome to test his overall fitness. The five day stage race ended in a time trial but the only significant mountain stage on day three failed to include a summit finish.
Yet in a virtual replay of the 2013 race, Slovakian Simon Spilak and Froome finished clear of the remainder of the field on the Alpine stage and the peloton arriving nearly a minute behind included distinguished climber Vincenzo Nibali and World Champion Rui Costa.
At the end of day three, Froome was only one second adrift of Spilak on general classification but that was to change after the final 18.5 km time trial, a stage on which the Kenyan born cyclist was to demonstrate that his ability in the discipline may have improved since last season.
On a similar stage last season, Froome was beaten into third position by specialist Tony Martin with a gap of 34 seconds separating the pair. This year, Martin was beaten into second place by the Team Sky rider with just a one second difference. Spilak also lost 20 seconds on Froome as compared to his 2013 time.
Froome may not have dominated the 2014 race in the same way as he led from start to finish during the five days in 2013, but he has clearly sent a signal to his opponents that his injury and illness problems may now be history and he is rediscovering his form at the appropriate form.
Nevertheless, the Tour de Romandie is not a three week marathon stage race as in the Tour de France and Froome has still to prove that his stamina conditioning has not been affected by his recent problems. With only one individual time trial scheduled for the July Tour de France, and a difficult few days in the Pyrenees facing the riders in the final week, Froome will be aware that his victory in the Romandie race does not necessarily guarantee that he possesses the stamina reserves to retain his yellow jersey.