Froome tightened his grip on the yellow jersey by winning stage 15 of the 100th Tour de France on one of the most feared climbs in world cycling on Sunday, capping a brilliant ride with late attacks that pulled him clear of main rival Alberto Contador and his last remaining challenger on the mountain Nairo Quintana.
But the performance was last night being compared on Twitter to those of Lance Armstrong, and Froome yet again faced questions about doping during yesterday’s rest day press conference, having answered them all week since taking the yellow jersey last Saturday.
“I just think it’s quite sad that we’re sitting here the day after the biggest victory of my life, a historic win, talking about doping,” Froome said. “My team-mates and I have been away from home for months training together and working our arses off to get here, and here I am accused of being a cheat and a liar.”
These were the first signs of frustration from Froome after days of calmly batting away the questions. When Armstrong’s name was mentioned atop Mont Ventoux yesterday, the 28-year-old said he would take it “as a compliment” regarding his performance, but yesterday insisted he was a very different man to the American, stripped of his seven Tour titles for doping infractions.
“Lance cheated,” he said. “I’m not cheating. End of story.”
Sky’s team principal Sir Dave Brailsford was equally tired of the topic, and told reporters to come up with a better way of settling the issue than asking the same questions every day. “Rather than asking us to come up with some way to prove we’re innocent, why don’t you collectively have a meeting and tell me what would prove it to you?” he said.
“It’s a rest day, it’s 10am, and the bottom line is I’m defending somebody who’s done nothing wrong. I’m more than happy to try to find a way to convince you guys that we’re doing nothing wrong but we need a little bit of help.”
Brailsford had been equally frustrated immediately after Froome’s win, and said the relentless line of questioning is wearing on the team.
“Having jumped in the air and punched the air for a second, that’s my five minutes of joy gone, now let’s get on to the doping questions which are more important,” he said.
“I’m not saying they’re not legitimate questions, but if there’s a tinge of frustration, that’s why it’s there.”
With athletics also under a cloud following the positive dope tests of former 100 metres record holder Asafa Powell and 2007 world 100 metres champion Tyson Gay at the weekend, Brailsford was adamant that Froome and other riders in his team are clean and their achievements should not be undermined.
“Given what’s happened with Armstrong, given what’s happened with athletics I think just replying with the old way of thinking is not going to give us solutions,”
Some have demanded that Sky release their power data – numbers which show the power output of their riders on the bikes – but Brailsford does not want to release the team’s “trade secrets” to rival operations. Instead, he suggested the World Anti-Doping Agency could be invited in by the team and given full access to all their information.
“They can have everything we’ve got,” he said. “They can come and live with us. They can see all of our data, have access to every single training file we’ve got.
“They can then compare that data on a consistent basis. And they could then tell the world whether they think this is credible or not. That would be my best answer.”