You could forgive Chris Froome for feeling some tension in his whippet-thin shoulders as this year’s Tour de France looms large on the Yorkshire horizon.
With the first stage running from Leeds to Harrogate on Saturday, the man on whom rest Team Sky’s hopes of winning a third consecutive Tour has endured a difficult year after the dream season he enjoyed in 2013.
Having suffered a back injury, a chest infection and an emergency treatment with corticosteroids that plunged both Sky and the UCI into hot water, he then crashed heavily during the Critérium du Dauphiné last month.
But the Team Sky leader and defending champion remains as unflappable as ever. “I’m more or less recovered,” he said in Leeds. “It definitely was a knock to me. It did take me a while to start feeling normal again on a bike after that crash. I’m confident that’s behind me now.”
There is also the spectre of Sir Bradley Wiggins. It was widely believed that Wiggins’ absence from Sky’s Tour squad was down to the mutual distrust that exists between him and Froome but the Briton insists this is not the case.
“Just to make it absolutely clear, I do not have a role in selection,” he said. “I do speak to Dave Brailsford [Team Sky’s general manager] generally about the group of guys I’ve been racing with. But if you look at how a Tour team is generally selected, the guys doing a Tour will be doing altitude camps together really quite early on in the season, racing together as a group.”
Then came the news of South African Daryl Impey’s failed drugs test for the masking agent Probenecid. “It was quite shocking this morning to have the news about Daryl, someone I know really well; he’s been a team-mate with me on Barloworld,” he said.
All these setbacks appear to have had little effect on Froome, who says he will be “that bit fresher” come the final week of the Tour.