Odds-on yellow jersey favorite Chris Froome put in an incredible performance Sunday in the Tour de France’s longest stage, a 150-mile segment that ended in a brutal 13-mile-long, 1-mile-high climb up Mont Ventoux.
With 7 km to go, the Kenyan-born Briton surged ahead of his rival, Alberto Contador, on the Tour’s most difficult mountain and ended up in a two-person race with Nairo Quintana, who wears the white jersey for best young rider. With 1.2 km to go, Froome, tore away from Quintana to win the Tour’s 15th stage, and his second overall this year.
But after adding a minute and a half to his overall lead, and taking the polka-dotted climbing jersey for good measure, Froome faced a different uphill battle: convincing skeptics that his performance isn’t too good to be true.
From cycling news site Velonews:
On Sunday, one journalist asked Froome, “The way you are racing today reminds some people of Lance Armstrong, how do you react to that?”
Froome, ever the polite English schoolboy, replied: “I am going to take that as a compliment. To win the way so many big names have won on such a famous climb means a lot.”
Try as he might to deflect that loaded question, Froome is in the odd position of being a runaway leader in the first Tour since the extent of the decades long doping scandal became public, and seven-time champion Lance Armstrong was stripped of his titles.
Froome later clarified his statement in an interview with Cycling News: “Obviously Lance won those races, but to compare me with Lance… I mean, Lance cheated. I’m not cheating. End of story.”
Correcting his gaffe wasn’t enough to silence critics who say Froome and his team Sky aren’t doing enough to reassure the world that he’s clean.
Retired three-time Tour champion and anti-doping advocate Greg LeMond believes that riders’ power output—which many believe can be used to detect doping—ought to be made public. It “would end the speculation,” he told Velonews in a post-stage interview. The fact that teams don’t release this data, he said, is “bullshit.”
Sky’s manager Dave Brailsford explained in an earlier interview with the website why Froome’s power data is not being released to the public:
There is so much pseudo science out there right now. If you release the data, there are very few people who can properly interpret and understand that data. All you’re going to do is create is a lot of noise for people who are pseudo scientists.
However, in a press conference yesterday, Brailsford did say Sky would be willing to release such data to experts at the World Anti-Doping Agency, reports Cycling Weekly.
And so it goes in the post-Lance world.
Chris Froome may be pedaling for the record books, but nobody is quite yet ready to believe it.