Chris Froome has had to answer critics from every angle since taking over the Tour de France race lead, but says his enjoyment of the yellow jersey has not been diminished by questions relating to doping and his performance.
Sky’s captain leads the race by a comfortable 3-10 minutes over Colombian Nairo Quintana (Movistar) heading into the final five days of the 2015 Tour. Ahead awaits the Pra Loup, La Toussuire and the Alpe d’Huez – and probably more questions regarding his credibility.
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“Definitely not, no,” Froome responded when asked if the questions take away from the joy of being in the race lead.
“This is a dream position to be in, with a decent advantage on most of my rivals. We are in yellow, nothing is going to distract from that.”
France 2 television commentator and former pro rider Laurent Jalabert said during live coverage: “It feels a little uncomfortable seeing the ease of Sky when contrasted with the distress experienced by the first three of the Tour last year.”
Retroactive tests showed Jalabert doped with EPO during his career, and he himself has drawn criticism for his comments.
Froome sat outside the team’s Ibis hotel in Sisteron in front of 50 to 60 journalists. The incidents during the last week, like Jalabert’s comments, were a “sideshow”.
“It was all going on on the sidelines,” Froome explained. “My focus has been on the race to be honest. It was a normal week of racing at the office at the Tour de France.”
Froome leads what was tagged the ‘Big Four’ heading into the Tour de France. He has 3-10 on Quintana, 4-23 on Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) and 7-49 on Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Quintana sits second overall and American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) third at 3-32.
“Nibali did not have the same amount of questioning when he was riding to win last year,” Sky’s team principal, David Brailsford said.
“I don’t know what it is. We were a little surprised in 2012, but in 2013 and now, we are ready for it.
“We seem to cop a lot of speculation,” Froome continued.
“We’ve had a lot of doubts around our performances, while those same doubts aren’t being given to the other GC contenders. Why is it just us? Thoughts on why? I don’t know. Do you have any thoughts on this?”
Froome, after the press conference, lined up for photos with his seven team-mates and left for a two-hour training ride on the hot roads around Sisteron. Brit Peter Kennaugh had to abandon yesterday due to illness.
“If I compare how I was two years ago, to how I was on the second rest day, I feel that I’m in a much stronger position,” Froome added.
“I felt like I was hanging on at that point. I’m happy where I’m at, I’m not fading.”
Video: Tour de France 2015 preview – the Alps