Tour de France race leader Geraint Thomas says that he is “99 per cent” confident that there is currently no doping in cycling, and that the success of himself and the rest of Team Sky is down to nothing more than hard training.
Thomas leads the 2018 Tour de France over Team Sky team-mate Chris Froome after winning two Alpine stages back-to-back. However his time up the Alpe d’Huez was well down the all-time list of fastest ascents, outside the top 100 fastest times and nearly five minutes slower than Marco Pantani’s record ascent in 1995.
“Maybe I got lucky. I don’t know,” Thomas said of his win. “It’s always difficult comparing times because conditions on the road are so different.
“I 100 per cent believe in myself and the team, that we do everything in the right way, along with the majority of the peloton as well.”
Team Sky have come under fire in recent years with controversies about their use of TUEs and the infamous Jiffy bag incident at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné.
Froome’s high reading for asthma drug salbutamol during his Vuelta a España winning run in 2017 sparked a media storm. However, the UCI dropped the case shortly before this year’s Tour de France, clearing Froome of any wrongdoing.
Due to cycling’s past and so much attention surrounding Team Sky’s success since 2010, the concern has understandably shifted to Thomas in one of cycling’s most iconic jerseys.
“I can’t say 100 per cent for the peloton, but I’m 99 per cent sure that everyone’s doing it the right way, working hard,” the Welshman continued. “I think it’s great for the sport.
“You look at all the anti-doping and all the tests and that type of stuff, and then you look at other sports… Cycling’s leading the way by a million miles so I have every confidence in the sport at the moment.”
Watch: Tour de France 2018 stage 13 highlights
Cycling still has issues to deal with but they appear small compared to the Festina scandal, Operación Puerto and the Armstrong years that rocked the sport over the last couple of decades.
For example it has the highest use of painkiller Tramadol out of all the sports that the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) monitors. The agency published a list of its 2017 findings in June, with cycling leading the way with 4.4 per cent in-competition samples showing the drug. However the UCI is now moving to ban the drug for the 2019 season.
Fans have booed Team Sky and Froome constantly throughout the Tour this season, but Thomas said that he couldn’t understand why people reacted that way towards the team.
“I think that’s a question for the people out there,” Thomas said of the booing. “I don’t know why.
“I think we just train hard, work hard, and come here to try to win the race. I think that’s a question for the people on the side of the road.”
Thomas spent his second day in the yellow jersey on stage 13, a sprinters’ stage won by Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in Valence. On Saturday, he will have to defend it on the short climb to the Mende airstrip.
“It wasn’t exactly a rest day but for sure it was a lot easier than the last three days. It was nice that it was on fast roads as well, the wind was kind to us. It was good to get that day ticked off,” Thomas explained.
“[The Mende climb] always been a bit of a slog to be honest. I’ve done it a couple of times, I think, maybe in Paris-Nice we’ve done it as well,” he said.
“The last time it wasn’t too bad but it is a tough climb, it’s steep. It’s only 10-11 minutes or something over three kilometres. It’s one of those where you just grit your teeth and go.”
Brit Steve Cummings gave MTN-Qhubeka its first win at the airstrip in 2015, the last time the climb was used. He surprised French hopes Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot.