Chris Froome says he is in a dream situation at the Tour de France despite the furore surrounding his performances which prompted Team Sky to release performance data.
The 30-year-old Team Sky leader has an advantage of 3 minutes 10 seconds over Nairo Quintana (Movistar) ahead of today’s first of four stages in the Alps, to Pra Loup.
The 2013 champion has been subjected to innuendo and interrogations over his dominant win in the first Pyrenees stage to La Pierre-Saint-Martin on Stage ten, with host broadcaster France 2 among those to seek expert analysis, but he insists he races clean.
The clamour for Froome’s actual figures led to Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford inviting head of performance Tim Kerrison to reveal the real numbers behind the display on the race’s second rest day.
“It really has been more of a sideshow than anything else,” Froome said.
“My focus has been on the race. This is the dream position, to be four racing stages away from the Champs-Elysees (on Sunday) with a decent advantage over most of my rivals. Nothing is going to detract from that.”
Froome is uncertain if the data release will convince everyone of the legitimacy of his performances.
“I’m not sure if numbers are going to fix everything, but certainly I feel as a team and myself, we’re definitely trying to be as open and transparent as possible,” he added.
Brailsford insisted performance data would not be released every time Froome beat the field and expects the attention not to detract from the Kenya-born Briton’s desire to win this week.
Brailsford added: “We’re here to race and racing is a human endeavour. It’s not a set of numbers on a spreadsheet, it’s not a power meter. I’m sure if Chris feels that he can attack and he could go and leave everybody behind, it would be a travesty, I think, if he had any doubt in his mind thinking, ‘oh, I better not’. And I know he won’t.
“That’s what we should do: continue to race in a clean and pure fashion.”
Team Sky understand why questions are asked due to cycling’s drug-riddled past.
Froome won the 100th Tour and first since Lance Armstrong was exposed as a drug cheat and stripped of his record seven titles. Now the scrutiny has returned in the 102nd Tour.
Brailsford said: “Every time there’s a great performance, people are going to ask themselves ‘can I believe in that performance or can’t I?’ Our job is to demonstrate that you can believe in it. Yes, there might be a bit of a challenge along the way, but I think it’s a battle worth fighting.”
Brailsford was taken aback when he appeared on France 2 on Sunday evening and was shown a video of Pierre Sallet, a doctor of physiology, calculating Froome’s power in watts per kilogram on La Pierre-Saint-Martin.
Sallet made a calculation of 7.04 watts per kilogram, which he claimed was an “abnormally high profile”. Team Sky said the figure was “wildly wrong”.
That prompted Brailsford’s decision to disclose the actual figures, with Kerrison revealing Froome’s reading to be 5.78 watts per kilogram.
“If you are going to present something on television, to a nation, then you do have an obligation to get your facts right,” Brailsford added.
“What France 2 did, putting out that headline: seven watts per kilo, a picture of Lance Armstrong and a picture of (Jan) Ullrich.
“That was so wildly wrong on so many levels that we thought we should just correct that and give the concrete facts and give the evidence, so, hopefully, people could judge for themselves.”
Kerrison revealed Team Sky shared more than one billion data points with UK Anti-Doping at the end of 2013 after scrutiny of Froome’s Tour-winning display.
Team Sky is prepared to share further information with the relevant authorities and Brailsford repeated his call for a “power passport” akin to the Biological Passport, which tracks an athlete’s blood profile to look for irregularities.