While the media made a big dust up of growing tensions between Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome inside the Sky bus, Froome has been fighting a true, rather than perceived, enemy within.
Froome continues to be plagued by a long-running parasitic disease even as he races toward the Tour de France podium.
With just five days to go to Paris, Sky is flying high, but Froome nearly missed this year’s Tour.
The Kenya-born all-rounder’s spring was marred by illness and a flare-up of a parasitic disease called bilharzia, a waterborne pathogen transferred by microscopic snails that later transform into worms. He has been fighting the condition for the past two seasons.
Froome told VeloNews the latest bout of the disease nearly knocked him out of contention earlier this season.
“The bilharzia is not totally cleared up,” Froome said. “I did repeat the treatment about three months ago in March. I am clear for now. I need to go check again in August-September.”
Bilharzia is a waterborne parasitic disease that he believes entered his system during trips back to Africa, where his father still lives.
The infection has marked Froome’s career over the past few seasons. After making a splash to earn a ticket to the Tour de France in 2009 with Barloworld, Froome all but disappeared from the results sheet as he struggled with fatigue and weariness that came with the parasite.
Doctors initially thought the symptoms pointed toward mononucleosis, but treatments failed to resolve his ongoing problems that left him tired and powerless on the bike. It went largely undiagnosed until he underwent extensive blood screening with a switch to Sky in 2010.
Doctors discovered the rather obscure parasitic infection and quickly prescribed treatments that kill just about everything in the body, similar to chemotherapy.
“It’s a very strong pill. It basically kills everything in your system, and hopefully at the same time, kills the [infection],” Froome said. “It’s something that I have to try to get rid of it. You cannot train when you’re taking that.”
Froome was knocked out of service in March and began building up for the Tour.
“The treatment is pretty rough stuff,” he said. “I have had a bit of a slow start to the season. There was more than a week when I could not even touch the bike. I started picking it up in time to be ready for the Tour.”
Now that’s a true enemy within.