Poels on Chris Froome: It is best for everyone to get clarity quickly

Team Sky rider unsure of Grand Tour programme while Froome case is on-going

Team Sky rider Wout Poels has said that it would be “best for everyone” if the investigation into Chris Froome’s salbutamol levels at last year’s Vuelta a Espana was resolved as soon as possible.

"I think that it is best for everyone to get clarity quickly so that we all know what will happen," Poels told NUsport. "Not only for us as teammates, but also for Chris himself. The other riders from the peloton also want to know where they stand, I understand that."

Froome is under investigation after he recorded twice the permitted dosage of salbutamol - 1,000ng/ml - in an anti-doping test conducted during the final week of last year’s Vuelta a Espana. He has denied taking more than the permitted dosage of salbutamol and now must prove that with relevant documentation and laboratory tests.

It can be an arduous process, and UCI president David Lappartient said last week that Froome's case could drag on for at least a year, given the Briton's access to the best legal assistance. Lappartient also added that it would simplify proceedings if Team Sky was to suspend Froome.

Poels, Froome’s right-hand man in the mountains at Grand Tours in recent years, said that he didn’t know much about the ongoing case. He, like many others, is eagerly awaiting the result of the investigation.

"I must honestly say that we do not hear very much about it," Poels said. "Every once in a while we get a small update and behind the scenes, Chris and his lawyers are working hard to solve the problem. For us, it is mainly about waiting. Hopefully, it will end well."

Poels is currently in Mallorca with several of his teammates ahead of the Mallorca Challenge later this week, while Froome remains in South Africa. Poels said that he has not spoken to his teammate much over the winter, opting to leave him to it while the investigation continues.

"I have not seen Chris for a while," Poels said. "I have very little contact with him, he has enough other things to do at the moment. I occasionally send him a message to ask how things are going, but not more. It's a difficult situation for him, so I'll leave him alone.”

Planning for the new season

Poels is on Team Sky’s long list for the Mallorca Challenge, but his season won’t properly start until the Volta a la Comunidad Valenciana next week, before he rides the Ruta del Sol in mid-February. There is then a decision still to be made about whether or not he will ride Paris-Nice or Tirreno-Adriatico, before heading to the Ardennes.

Last year, Poels missed the defence of his Liege-Bastogne-Liege title due to the lingering knee problems that kept him out of racing for four months. Now that his injuries are behind him, he hopes to be back on the top step of the podium soon. After La Doyenne, his schedule is up for debate with the result of the investigation leaving a lot of decision-making up in the air.

"I hope to take part in the Giro, but we have not made a final decision about that, and whether I will go there as a leader or super-domestique depends, of course, on the decision around Froome,” he said.

Poels’ participation at the Tour de France is also uncertain at the moment. The Dutchman has not been shy about his ambitions to head up a Grand Tour team and, at 30, he is aware that time is ticking by. He received a boost to morale by finishing sixth at the 2018 Vuelta a Espana, while riding in support of Froome, but says that competition for a leadership role is tough.

"I am now at an age that it is about time," Poels explains. "I think I'm ready, and last season I finished sixth in the general standings of the Vuelta, which gave me a lot of confidence.

"With most teams, that would be a top performance, but with Team Sky, where you are riding a four-time Tour winner, the cards on the table are slightly different."

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