Chris Froome survived all of the early climbs and was present in the elite group that started the final climb in the Mercan’Tour Classic and delivered his best performance in nearly three years.
The 167-km route was climb-heavy in its second half, with Cat. 1 La Colmiane first on the menu before HC-rated Col de la Couillole and finally the Cat. 1 ascent to the ski area of the Col de Valberg, 12.4 km of 7.2 percent.
The four-time Tour de France champion was in the lead group approaching the final climb, sparking hopes he could be about to write the biggest comeback story of the season.
He was soon dropped on the Col de Valberg but still came home in 11th – his first top-20 finish since his career-threatening crash at the Criterium du Dauphine.
The race was eventually won by Froome’s teammate Jakob Fuglsang, who attacked roughly half-way up the climb to solo clear of Michael Woods and David Gaudu.
“It’s a super day for the team,” Froome said. “Obviously with Jakob winning and Woody getting second place. We couldn’t have asked for much more. We had a plan coming into the race, to try and make it hard on the three last climb. It’s nice to see the team bouncing back. We had a difficult start to the season, and finally we’re putting some results on the scoreboard.
“On a personal level I’ve seen a big progression in the last few months. I’ve just come off a training camp now. The legs are feeling good and I’m taking it one week at a time, building the feelings and momentum. I want to get back to my old self again. I’m not there but I’m one step closer.”