Chris Froome tightens grip on Tour de France

Rafal Majka of Poland crosses the finish line to win stage 11 of the Tour de France. Picture: Getty
Rafal Majka of Poland crosses the finish line to win stage 11 of the Tour de France. Picture: Getty
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Tour de France leader Chris Froome believes there are no beneficiaries from publishing performance data as it proves little – yet he is willing to undergo physiological testing to analyse what it is that makes him an 
exceptional athlete.

Froome, who maintained his near three-minute advantage as Poland’s Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) won stage 11 to Cauterets, continues to fight off innuendo from an audience sceptical after years of performance-enhancing drugs use in the peloton.

The 30-year-old Team Sky leader has always denied doping and spoken of his wish to be a spokesman for clean cycling.

The 2013 champion is frustrated with some critics using leaked power data to allege he is cheating, insisting it is misleading and does not account for all variables.

“If we find an independent expert in the field who can analyse the data from a physiological point of view, then, yes, sure, I might be open minded to doing that,” said Froome.

“There would be some interesting things that come out of it and maybe as a team we might even learn something from it. But at the moment I’m focused on the race. I’ve certainly got no plans of just releasing data out into the public. You can see the effects of the supposed leaked file that went out there.

“That’s done no-one any good. It doesn’t prove one thing or another thing. That’s pointless.”

Froome says he pays no attention to his ‘numbers’ while at a race, leaving the data to Team Sky’s performance staff.

He added: “I’m focused on my race, I’m focused on my rivals, my team-mates, actually how things are out on the road.”

The scrutiny Froome is under is in no small part a legacy of Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his record seven Tour titles for doping, finally confessing in February 2013 after years of denials.

Armstrong returns to Tour roads today as part of Le Tour-One Day Ahead alongside Geoff Thomas, the former England footballer who is hoping to raise £1 million for Cure Leukaemia by riding the 3,360-kilometres route one day ahead of the professional peloton.

Froome supports the cause after his mother died of a blood cancer-related illness, but cares little of Armstrong’s involvement. He said: “I wish Geoff Thomas and the guys all the best in raising as much money as they can.

“But about Lance he’s not on the line with us, we’re not going to see him, it’s a non-event for us.”

Majka, who won two stages of the 2014 Tour as well as the King of the Mountains title, soloed to victory on yesterday’s second Pyrenees stage.

Birmingham-born Irishman Dan Martin was second, one minute behind, and Froome rolled in 5mins 21secs behind Majka in ninth place as part of an elite group.

The bunch included the main protagonists, so Tejay van Garderen remained 2:52 behind in second place and Nairo Quintana third, 3:09 adrift.

Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) stayed fifth, 4:03 back, and Alberto Contador one second further behind in sixth. Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali lost further time, finishing 50secs behind Froome to fall 7:47 adrift. His hopes of a successful title defence are apparently over.