JERUSALEM (AFP) - Chris Froome crashed in a training ride before the Giro d'Italia start in Jerusalem on Friday (May 4), dashing his hopes of putting the drama of his adverse doping test behind him.
The four-time Tour de France winner hit the ground during his ride and suffered cuts and abrasions to the right side of his body, where his shorts and jersey were also torn.
Like all 176 riders starting the Italian tour on Friday's 9.7km opening stage time trial around Jerusalem, he had taken advantage of the cordoned-off street course to embark on a reconnaissance ride.
But his practice ride was cut short - and caught on camera by an eagle-eyed Twitter user - although he was able to pedal back to his Team Sky bus to receive treatment from doctors.
Sky said there was no significant damage but it was nonetheless a blow to the race favourite, who has been under pressure in the build-up due after testing positive for elevated levels of asthma medication salbutamol during last year's Vuelta a Espana, which he won.
Froome is attempting to become only the third man in history to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the same time, having also won last year's Tour de France.
He escaped a provisional suspension over the adverse analytical finding in his urine sample at the Vuelta because salbutamol is allowed in certain doses.
But he would have been hoping to steal a march on many of his rivals for pink jersey glory as he is a time-trial specialist, having won Olympic and world championship bronze medals in the discipline.
"I think we could see gaps of up to 20 or 30 seconds between the main contenders, especially on such a technical, tough circuit, up and down," Froome had said before the race.
He had also spoken on Wednesday of his preference for hot weather - something that Jerusalem was providing in spades.
Not ideal for some riders
The temperature was creeping over 30 deg Celsius with a thin haze that made it heavy as well as hot, something French climber Thibaut Pinot is not a fan of.
"It's not ideal with the heat," he had said on Wednesday.
The time-trial course is not entirely suited to Froome's abilities, though, as it includes 18 turns and frequent short climbs and descents, meaning the less powerful but punchier riders would be less disadvantaged.
Certainly he now knows the perils the course holds after his training spin.
Crowds were still sparse during the morning, competing with the throngs of tourists visiting the Old City, as well as the faithful heading to the Al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount for Friday prayers.
For some, including an Old City barber called Eddie, the race was a hindrance.
"This Italian race is terrible, all the roads are closed," he complained.
Riders were due to set off at one-minute intervals for the time trial that should take around 13-14 minutes.
First up at 1.50pm (7.50pm Singapore time) was due to be Italian Fabio Sabatini, with Froome off at 4.41pm - leaving him plenty of time to recover from his morning tumble - and reigning champion Tom Dumoulin last to head out at 4.45pm.