Froome: Tour de France remains a 'carrot'

An improbable and historic fifth Tour de France title sits at the back of Chris Froome's mind as the British cycling great continues his comeback.

The 37-year-old is one of the stars this week at the Santos Tour Down Under, returning to the race for the first time since 2010.

The Israel-Premier Tech rider will compete at the tour as part of a five-week block in Australia that will also feature the January 29 Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Race at Geelong.

Froome is finally pain-free after the 2019 crash on a training ride that left him with career-threatening injuries.

It took him nearly a year to be able to walk without a limp.

Apart from his four Tour de France wins, Froome has two Giro d'Italia titles and another at the Vuelta a Espana, making him one of the all-time greats of the three-week Grand Tours.

But Belgian Firmin Lambot remains the oldest Tour de France winner at 36 - a feat achieved in 1922.

"I'm realistic about it - I know given everything I've been through the last few years, it's not something right here, right now I can say, 'Right, that's my goal this year'," Froome said on Sunday in Adelaide.

"But it is there at the back of my mind and it is a carrot."

Nevertheless, Froome's confidence continues to grow as he returns to top form.

He was riding well at last year's Tour de France when COVID-19 forced him out of the race and ruined the rest of his season.

Froome had another bout of the virus around Christmas but it was not as severe, and he is enjoying his extended training and racing block in Australia.

"Big miles in the heat have always done me well ... I always find that gets me moving," he said of his Australian pre-season training.

"Last year, it was the first time I was completely pain-free from the accident. I didn't have any lingering issues.

"If I can build on that progress, hopefully I can get closer to being up there, where it really counts - that's the dream scenario for me."

Froome acknowledges the doubters who wonder why he continues with his professional cycling career.

"A lot of people would say, 'Oh, but why are you doing it? You used to be winning Grand Tours, one after the other - and now you're a long way back'," he said.

"I see it in another way ... it took me almost a year to walk without a limp and here I am racing basically at the highest level again.

"I just feel like everything from here on out is a bonus for me ... it still gives me a lot of joy and happiness, racing my bike."

Froome notes that he, more than most, knows how to prepare for major races.

He also wants no regrets once his career ends.

"The big crash I had, just walking away from the sport then, it wouldn't have sat well with me - I would have regrets," he said.

It is unclear when Froome will retire and he says even he doesn't know.

"Especially what I learned the last few years, I know nothing is 100 per cent sure, but certainly ... I don't have any plans to stop any time soon," he said.