MILAN – British pre-race favourite Chris Froome said Monday he was ready to fight until the finish line to make up lost time in the final week of the Giro d'Italia.
“It's been a brutal race, but it's also been a beautiful race,” said Froome, who suffered two falls in the race which started in Jerusalem before a stunning stage win Saturday on the summit of the imposing Monte Zoncolan.
“This is bike racing at its best and it's what people want to see. Real edge-of-the-seat stuff and unpredictable racing too.”
Four-time Tour de France champion Froome slipped from fifth to seventh place after trailing home in 17th on Sunday in the Dolomites.
He is trailing pink jersey wearer Simon Yates of Britain by nearly five minutes going into the final week with the race finishing in Rome next Sunday.
The 33-year-old said defending Giro champion Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands would be the man to beat in Tuesday's 34.2 kilometre time-trial at Rovereto in Trentino, northern Italy.
“If I gain anything on Tom Dumoulin I'll be very happy. He's the world champion time-triallist, I don't expect to gain anything on him tomorrow, but let's see,” said Froome, speaking on Monday's final rest day.
Froome took third place in the time-trial at the 2017 world championships shortly after learning of his adverse doping test at the Vuelta a Espana which he won, an affair which is still pending.
“I'm going to give it everything I've got and I'm certainly not going to expect anything (to be easy) for the rest of this Giro.
“(The gap) is big, especially the way Simon has been riding, he hasn't shown one moment of weakness so far and only seems to be getting stronger.
“I'm not going to give up.”
France's Thibaut Pinot - fourth overall and 2min 37sec behind Yates - said he was pushing for a podium place after finishing fourth last year.
“The level this year is higher,” he said. Certain riders are stronger like (Domenico) Pozzovivo. Yates is much stronger than (Nairo) Quintana last year in the mountains.
“I would have preferred to do better, sixth at Zoncolan and also yesterday wasn't sufficient.”
“For the moment he's (Yates) really untouchable but we know that the Giro is a race unlike others, there have been situation reversals in recent years.
“Until Saturday evening there is always hope.”
And he believes that Froome can never be ruled out.
“When you see him gaining strength on Zoncolan, you say that he'll continue the next day. We were a little surprised. We don't really know what to think about it. He can be capable of the best as well as the worst. There are two big steps left.
“If he makes two big days like in Zoncolan, he can return in the race to the podium. It's always better to have time back on him.”