An EXPLOSIVE performance saw Chris Froome distance his rivals for Tour de France victory before he asked what more he can do to prove he is riding clean.
The Team Sky leader provided the Bastille Day fireworks on the Tour’s first mountain day with a dominant display on stage ten to La Pierre-Saint-Martin.
Froome’s lead over Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) jumped from 12 seconds to almost three minutes after the 167-kilometre route from Tarbes.
During the 2013 Tour which he won, the 30-year-old Team Sky leader was subjected to sustained interrogations and his performances were pored over by critics, with some using data to justify their stance.
Froome, who has always denied doping, can expect further inquisitions from a public sceptical after years of drug cheats winning the Tour following a stunning fifth stage victory of his career. He ruthlessly attacked 6.4km from the end to the summit of the first hors categorie (beyond category) climb after a dominant showing from his Team Sky squad.
“What haven’t I done? I’ve tried to be as much as a spokesman as I can for clean cycling,” Froome said. “I’ve spoken to the CIRC (Cycling Independent Reform Condition), I’ve made suggestions to the governing body to implement things like night-time testing. I’ve pointed out when I’ve felt there hasn’t been enough testing, in places like Tenerife. What else is a clean rider supposed to do?”
Froome was composed in answering, but he understands why the line of questioning was employed. “It doesn’t make me angry,” Froome added. “It would be a different story if I had something to hide. I know I’m a clean rider. I know I’ve worked extremely hard to be in this position. I’m really proud of that.
“I do understand where the questions are coming from, the history of the sport and the people before me who have won the Tour. I am sympathetic, but at the same time there needs to be a certain level of respect also.
“I’ve worked extremely hard to get here. I’m not going to let anyone take that away from me.”
Van Garderen is two minutes 52 seconds behind in second place, Nairo Quintana (Movistar) is now third, 3mins 09secs adrift, Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) fourth, 4:01 behind and Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) fifth, 4:03 back. Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) is 4:04 behind in sixth, while Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is 6:57 behind in tenth place, his hopes of a successful defence of his Tour title apparently over.
Eleven stages remain, but such was Froome’s dominance that many have anointed Froome the Italian’s successor in Paris on 26 July. He grabbed the race by the scruff of the neck with a ruthless acceleration on the brutally steep finishing ascent.
Froome’s Team Sky colleague Richie Porte was second, 59secs behind, and Quintana, the 2013 runner-up to Froome, was third, 1:04 adrift. Thomas was sixth and another Briton, Adam Yates (Orica-GreenEdge), seventh.
The Kenya-born Briton insists the race is not yet over.
“I certainly wouldn’t want to be in the position that some of my rivals are in right now,” Froome added. “But the Tour is not over. We’ve only done one mountain. It’s a long way to go.
“When we got up to that last climb and we heard the big names that were struggling and getting dropped I turned to the guys that were with me – Woet Poels, Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas – I just said ‘guys come on, let’s push on here, there’s guys in trouble’. The guys lifted the pace and set it up for me so that I could attack still while the gradient was still quite steep, with about 5.5km before it started flattening out a bit.
“And just a dream, dream scenario to hear all those big guys getting dropped and to be able to ride away like that, in the yellow jersey. I really couldn’t have asked for it to go any better.”
Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford on Monday’s rest day alleged the British squad has been the victim of computer hacking by critics convinced Froome is using performance-enhancing drugs.
Froome said: “That’s nuts, especially seeing as the data in question is over two years old.
“We’re focused on the race.”
Today’s 188km 11th stage is the second in the Pyrenees, from Pau to Cauterets.