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Valenciana Stage 3: Groenewegen crashes late, but takes the…

Valenciana Stage 2: Pogacar outsprints Valverde for the win

Chris Froome (Sky) spoke to the press at the start…

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The four-time Tour winner heads to a training camp in Spains Canary islands in what will be an important step in his return to racing

While speculation continues to swirl aroundChris Froomeandhis racing future, the four-time Tour de France winner has not yet set a firm date for a return to racing.

A training camp this month on Spains Gran Canaria should reveal Froomes progress and racing capacity following his lengthy recovery fromcareer-threatening injuriesthat has sidelined him since June.

Right now, Froome is not indicating when and where he will race for thefirst time in 2020.

With big question marks about Froomes condition and his racing future, many are starting to wonder out loud if Froome will ever be the same racer he was.

A report in the latest issue ofBiciSportin Italy seemed to raise the alarm bells that all is not as well as suggested, with one Ineos sport director quoted as saying Froome may never return to the racer he is.

EvenFroome has admittedhe has a hard row to hoe, but following a flurry of web reports over the weekend echoing the negative take, Froome reminded everyone he believes hes still on track with a tersely worded message on social media.

Ineos principal David Brailsford took toLa Gazzetta dello Sportto express his support for his four-time Tour de France champion.

No one should under-estimate Froome, Brailsford said. He is putting all the courage and determination into training that led him to win seven grand tours to be ready in time for the start of the 2020 Tour. He and Ineos will really do everything they can to get him to his best by the start in Nice.

That pair of public push-backs reveal how sensitive the team is surrounding any speculation about Froomes sporting future.

From what Froome and Ineos have suggested, everyone inside Ineos seems cautiously optimistic Froome can revive his racing career. He is still undergoing physical therapy the real reason insiders cited on why he departed a December camp that raised eyebrows as he recovers fromharrowing injuries sufferedin his high-impact crash during recon at the Critrium du Dauphin last summer.

Though he hasnot raced since June, he has returned to training, but so far, Ineos is keeping riding details closely under wraps.

Froome, who typically is quite active on Strava and often shares ride data, has not posted any training rides since he was roaring up climbs on Tenerife in May.

Froome, who turns 35 in May, has repeatedly stated that his central ambition driving his comeback is to return to the Tour and race for a record-tying fifth yellow jersey. Teammate and defending championEgan Bernalhas already confirmed he willtarget the Tour, with 2018 winner and 2019 runner-upGeraint Thomasalso expected to race in July.

Froome and Ineos certainly wont want to race him before hes ready, but if he wants to try to have a legitimate shot at winning the Tour, hell need to put in some significant race days before the mountainous Tourdebuts in Nicein June.

Every year since 2011, Froome has made his season debut during February, so it will be interesting to see if history repeats itself next month. Races such as the Volta ao Algarve or the UAE Tour, both in late February, could provide Froome with a relatively smooth runway back into the peloton, though neither race is particularly easy. If hes not ready until March, even more challenging races such as Paris-Nice, Tirreno-Adriatico and Volta a Catalunya are waiting on the WorldTour calendar.

There is some speculation that Froome could race theGiro dItaliain May. If he would race in Italy, the 2018 winner would likely be there to regain grand tour fitness and post some hard racing numbers, leaving the GC battle up to defending champion and new Ineos teammateRichard Carapazand others.

Every season, Froome has followed a familiar blueprint back to the Tour. This year, nothing is routine as Froome faces the toughest physical challenge of his career.

All eyes will be on Froome and his first race back.

Valenciana Stage 3: Groenewegen crashes late, but takes the win

Valenciana Stage 3: Groenewegen crashes late, but takes the win.

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Valenciana Stage 2: Pogacar outsprints Valverde for the win.

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VeloNews magazine will bring you inside the sport of bike racing, with exclusive features, analysis, expert training advice, unbiased gear reviews and the absolute best cycling photography.

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