Chris Froome (Sky) wanted to celebrate an historic Mont Ventoux win and the Tour de France’s yellow on the rest day today in Orange, but instead defended himself against doping accusations.
“I think it’s quite sad that the day after the biggest victory of my life we’re talking about doping,” Froome said.
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“We’ve slept on volcanoes, been away from homes from months, working our asses off to get ready for this… and here I am, basically being accused of being a cheat and a liar – that’s not cool.”
Froome spoke clearly to the 100 or so journalists packed into the conference room at the Park Inn. The performance was as precise, if not as thrilling, as his Mont Ventoux win.
He became the first Briton to win the Tour’s legendary Mont Ventoux stage yesterday. He went two for two in the Tour’s summit finishes, adding Mont Ventoux to an equally dominant performance up Ax 3 Domaines last Saturday.
As his lead grows, though, so does the doping debate. After years of scandals, with Lance Armstrong losing his seven Tour titles over the winter, some fans have a hard time putting their faith into a new champion.
Froome yesterday answered a question about fans comparing him to Armstrong. He said simply, “I’m going to take that as a compliment.”
He answered more bluntly today.
“I am not quite sure if I said I was honoured [to be compared to Armstrong]. I would only take it only as a compliment, because of how he won it,” Froome explained. “Lance Armstrong won those races; that aside, to compare me with him… Lance Armstrong cheated, I am not cheating… end of story.”
Froome leads the Tour de France by 4-14 minutes over Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Belkin). It seems a given he will win in Paris, but that is what everyone thought last Saturday night. The next day to Bagnères-de-Bigorre, rival teams isolated Froome and pushed team-mate Richie Porte well out of his second place in the overall classification.
He would love to talk about how he will defend himself in the coming stages, like Alpe d’Huez. However, he and team principal, David Brailsford spent half of the allotted 15 minutes answering questions about power output, doping and Armstrong comparisons.
“It’s a rest day, it’s 10 o’clock in the morning; and I am trying to defend someone who’s done nothing wrong,” Brailsford said. “You tell me, what could we do so we wouldn’t have answer the same question over and over?”
Brailsford’s idea is not to share SRM and power data with the public, but with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). He said that he would support all teams sharing their data with the agency so that it could augment the current biological passport.
“We’ve looked at the biological passport, which should also include weight and power, not just blood values, we’d actually encourage WADA to appoint an expert,” he continued. “We’d let them have all of our data, have access to everything we have.”
It would not completely silence the critics, but it would give them more confidence in Froome and Sky’s dominance, and it might also allow Froome a bit more time to enjoy his rest day and the yellow jersey.