Froome: Tour exit 'devastating'

Chris Froome has spoken for the first time of his devastation at pulling out of this year’s Tour de France.

In his first UK interview since he abandoned the Tour de France on stage five because of a fractured wrist, Froome - who was the defending champion - told Sky Sports News that pulling out was \"one of the hardest things I have ever done.\"

\"We were on such a high after the first few stages over in the UK,\" he said. \"The support over there was insane, second to none, and it just felt like such a deflation getting over to France and crashing on stage four like that.

\"Knowing that it could be the end of the Tour and having to start next day with that at the back of the mind - it was definitely right up there with setbacks as far as setbacks go.\"

Speaking at Team Sky's Nice training base, near his home in Monaco, he said he is now feeling much better.

\"It has been a really difficult period and obviously pulling out of the Tour was one of hardest things I've ever done but I think at the time, it was quite clear I wasn't going any further with things the way they were,\" he said.

\"It all started with a crash on stage four and that was just one of those things that could have happened to anyone. Wrong place, wrong time.

\"I could feel immediately when I stood up that something was not quite right. I finished (the stage) and had (my wrist) scanned. We didn't see anything worrying at that point but it had swollen up quite a bit.

\"I started stage five and conditions were tough and with everything taped and bound in place with a split, trying to control the wrist, I couldn't steer the bike in the way I normally had to control it. On a stage like that you need to use your hands.

\"It was quite a savage stage even before we had hit the first cobbled section - I'd come off twice. It was clear to me at that point: this is a long shot. We're not going to get through the cobbled stages now.\"

The extent of Froome's injury meant the decision to withdraw from the biggest bike race in the world was made for him.

\"It wasn't actually that tough to pull out because I'm not stupid. I could see the swelling on the wrist. The signs were there that things weren't right and I think it was the sensible thing after those two crashes on stage five I could just see that hold on this isn't right that I keep racing here and putting others in danger because I can't handle my bike here. I think it was tough decision but sensible thing to do.\"

However Froome said crashing out of this year's Tour was not necessarily a bad thing for Team Sky and could help the team in the long run.

\"It's tough. Winning the Tour de France is extremely tough,\" he said. \"I think we have been really fortunate at Sky for the last two years having things to go our way and I think it's easy to get lulled into that false sense of security of almost how easy it is at the time, but it's a huge ask winning something like the Tour de France.

\"I don't think we can ever go there and think that, ok we've got this one in the bag. It's just never the case.

\"It's not necessarily a bad thing what happened this year. Obviously it's devastating for us as team havening won it for last few years we put a lot of expectation on this year's Tour. In a way it's been a good readjustment for us and to revaluate things and to look at where we are and how better to improve looking forward to next year's Tour.

\"In cycling when you come to the end of something and it doesn't work out, you are very quickly onto next thing already, and for me the Vuelta has become another opportunity, another challenge to be able to get my teeth stuck into and work hard towards that.\"

Team Sky turned to rider Richie Porte as their \"plan B\" after Froome, their team leader, crashed out.

However Porte had a terrible ride on stage thirteen. He slipped down the general classification from second to sixteenth, cracking on the final climb of the stage. Froome thinks it was the right decision for the team to earmark teammate Porte for the team leadership in his absence.

\"In hindsight, you can always look back and say, well if we'd done this and put that rider there, but you can't change things. I think the management chose the best team at that time,\" he said. \"We had a great plan B in Richie Porte and he really was in fantastic position, until he got sick. Sometimes things just don't work out. That's bike racing. That's sport. We are going to have to go back next year and give it our all again.\"

In the near future Froome plans to take on another Grand Tour, the Vuelta a Espana, which starts on August 23 in Jerez de la Frontera in Spain. He will then take part in the Road Cycling World Championships from 21-28 September in Ponferrada, Spain, where he is likely to support Team Sky rider Ben Swift.

However he admits his main goal is next year's Tour.

\"It's been quite refreshing to come in now knowing I'm not going in as defending Tour de France champion again,\" he said. \"I can probably fly under the radar a little bit more now. I've definitely had a taste of how much more pressure going in as reigning champion. It's not an easy position to be in.

\"For me I don't need any fuel for the Tour de France. It's a race where I'm always going to give it my all to and do my fighting best. It will definitely spur me on to be absolutely ready for next year's edition. It's just one of those things. I'm just going to have to suck it up now and move on.\"