Chris Froome's rest day press conferences at his Tour de France victories in 2013 and 2015 were often tense affairs, dominated by the thorny question of whether the yellow jersey would agree to release his power data to allay the suspicion that had greeted his performances. The atmosphere was a little less tempestuous when Froome met the Tour de France media in Hilterfingen on the shores of Lake Thun on Tuesday, despite Greg LeMond's forthright dismissal of Team Sky's 'marginal gains' philosophy in the previous day's edition of L'Equipe.
Team manager Dave Brailsford said that he felt the generally calmer climate on this year's race was thanks in part to the physiological testing undertaken by Froome at the GlaxoSmithKline Human Performance Lab last August.
Froome's data from a similar round of testing in 2007 was provided as point of comparison, but though other Grand Tour contenders have released more detailed information – in 2014 Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) published some six years' worth of data, stretching back to his junior days, Brailsford maintained that the GlaxoSmithKline test had been an important step in responding to the suspicions.
"I think it's pretty important what Chris did at the end of last year when he went into the lab and put himself up for testing independently of the team, and I think the numbers told a significant story," Brailsford said. "People certainly aren't asking the same questions as they have done in the past. It's difficult to ask for VAM and power data if you're going downhill and dropping everybody."
Froome told reporters that he "wasn't sure of the exact number" when asked how many times he had undergone anti-doping tests on this Tour, but after consulting his smartphone, Brailsford said his riders has been visited by anti-doping inspectors on 13 occasions at the Team Sky hotel during the course of this Tour, in addition to the routine tests he has undergone at the end of each stage since he took hold of the yellow jersey in the Pyrenees.
"Just before the race started, everybody was tested and we've been tested 13 times in the hotel during the race," Brailsford said, later confirming that Froome has not yet been subjected to a night-time test on this Tour. Since last year, and following a new French law, the UCI's anti-doping arm the CADF has had the ability to carry out tests between 11pm and 6am as part of new measures to thwart micro-dosing of EPO.
Clarification on UCI correspondence
At the beginning of the press conference, Brailsford was asked to clarify a comment he made at Team Sky's last rest day press conference in Andorra, when he said that the team had received an email from the UCI congratulating it on its cooperation with tests for mechanical doping. He said that the message had been sent from UCI technical manager Mark Barfield to Team Sky's head of technical operations Carsten Jeppesen.
Barfield made headlines last month when French television programme Stade 2 reported that he had sent an email to Typhoon e-bikes CEO Harry Gibbings regarding a police inquiry into the use of hidden motors at last year's Tour. The UCI has expressed full confidence in Barfield, who has been working on bike testing at this year’s Tour, though the governing body has pledged an inquiry into the matter.
"What I was trying to refer to there, if I remember correctly, was a communication between Mark and Carsten about our cooperation in the way we get the bikes ready for the tests. There has to be a willingness on the behalf of the mechanics to get it done quickly and I think that's what I was referring to," Brailsford said.
"Mark works for the UCI, Carsten works for Sky. There's a recognition there from the UCI that we we're being very, very supportive and helpful, and that our staff and mechanics were being very, very helpful in the way there were presenting themselves and making themselves available for testing."