After facing just one out-of-competition doping control in the previous three years when training at Mount Teide, Chris Froome has revealed to the The Telegraph that he and his Team Sky teammates were twice visited by testers during a training camp there last month.
The volcano in Tenerife is the altitude training location of choice for many Tour de France contenders. Defending Tour de France champion Vincenzo Nibali and his Astana team were also training at Teide last month and Froome said that they, too, had undergone the same number of doping controls.
“We had been coming up here for three years, two or three times a year, and we had only been tested once. Also, asking around the other teams who had been up here, they hadn’t been tested either. Whenever we went to the races, one of the first questions journalists would ask was, ‘You were up in Tenerife which obviously has a bad reputation in the past. Were you tested?’ We could only say, ‘No, we weren’t’, which just doesn’t look good,” Froome told The Telegraph, as he prepares to travel the Alps for the start of the Critérium du Dauphiné, his last major race before the Tour de France.
“I just wanted to be able to say, ‘Yes we were up there, yes we were tested, the results are there, nothing to worry about’. I also wanted to know that all our competition is being tested, especially with so many teams using Tenerife as a training hub at those critical times of the year. You think that would be one of the times testing should be at its highest. It was something I really felt I needed to draw attention to. I felt the authorities could have been doing more. I am happy with the number of times they have been [here] this year.”
Nibali and his Astana teammates stayed in the same hotel as Froome and his Team Sky teammates –Nicolas Roche, Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe, Wout Poels and Peter Kennaugh – during their stint at altitude. Froome acknowledged that it made for an unusual environment to stay in such close proximity to one of his principal rivals for Tour honours.
“It is a bit funny up here. You see them on the turbo trainer at an odd time of the day and you think, ‘Ah, what are they doing?’ You hear they left before breakfast and didn’t get back until just before dinner and think ‘Wow, are we doing enough?’ It’s interesting to compare,” he said. “We know what we are doing, they know what they are doing. You say ‘hi’ passing in the corridors. If it’s someone you have been teammates with, you might grab a coffee. Otherwise, we do pretty much keep to ourselves and what we’re doing.”
While Froome listed Nibali, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde of Movistar as contenders for the Tour, he highlighted recent Giro d’Italia winner Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) as his greatest rival. Both riders were forced out of last year’s Tour early by crashes in the opening ten days.
“He is the benchmark, the guy to beat,” Froome said of Contador, who is targeting the Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double this year, adding: “We don’t hate each other. I think when it does come to the Grand Tours, both of us want it to be a good race. We want to be able to take each other on and for one of us at the end to be able to say, ‘we were better.’”
Froome lines up at the Critérium du Dauphiné on Sunday for his final outing ahead of the Tour de France and his first race since he placed third at the Tour de Romandie last month. Nibali will be among his opponents in the Alps, while Quintana and Contador will instead race the Route du Sud (June 18-21) as their final tune-up before July.