Chris Froome (Team Sky) has hit back at doubts and criticism expressed about his performances at the Giro d'Italia, saying he doesn't "ride according to what Twitter trolls are going to write about. That has no bearing whatsoever on how I ride my bike."
Froome was responding to a deluge of criticism and doubts that were published on social media comment sections but also by far-more-informed commentators.
He has been under pressure from UCI President David Lappartient to recuse from racing since news of his salbutamol case emerged on December 13. Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and other riders also called out Froome, but he has defied the pressure as his lawyers fight his legal battle. Froome seems to have compartmentalised his life, separating the fight to save his reputation from influencing his racing.
"I am absolutely certain that when people have the same information as I have, they will understand why I made the decision to continue racing and riding the way I have been," Froome said on Saturday evening when pushed about his on-going case and his incredible performance and 80-kilometre solo breakaway to Bardonecchia that set-up his Giro d'Italia victory.
"I have an absolutely clear conscience, and I have no doubt this result will stand the test of time," Froome told a select group of media in Rome.
"I have shared more info than other riders. I have been more open than any of my rivals in that regard. I have shared way more data."
That statement is likely to spark further debate on social media. Froome has shared less data than many of his fellow riders, who have long published details of their data, while Froome has often been evasive about his racing weight – a key number needed to calculate performance.
Froome claimed he won the Giro d'Italia because he was aggressive on all terrains, not just during his stage victory to Monte Zoncolan or his 80km solo raid on stage 19.
"I have done everything. I have attacked in descents, in crosswinds, and I have come back from four-minute deficits. It feels I am ticking those boxes," he claimed.
"I find it interesting people are very quick to jump to conclusions, when actually if you break down what [that ride] looks like, I made up more time on the descent than on the climbs or the flats. They [the chase group] were actually closing on me on the climbs. How can people say that I was going too fast on the climbs? It is actually uneducated, isn't it? They have just gone on emotion."
So far only Froome and his coaches know the true numbers of his performance on the long road to Bardonecchia. Velon, the business association of teams, including Team Sky, released data, including watts, on Dumoulin, Richard Carapaz, Rohan Dennis and Davide Formolo after stage 19 but only provided climbing time and speed for Froome. For Saturday's stage, Velon listed Froome's average power as 280 watts.
"I'd be very surprised if Velon doesn't have the data, as I've been riding around with an extra 180g receiver of theirs on my bike for the last three weeks. I'd be disappointed if they don't have the data," Froome joked on Friday.
"I heard something about 350 watts for three hours, but obviously there's a few descents there as well. I mean, I don't mind sharing that data," Froome promised.
A Giro d'Italia victory with caveats
Froome showed his own emotions when he posed for an official Team Sky photograph with the three winner's jersey from the 2017 Tour de France, the 2017 Vuelta a España and the 2018 Giro d'Italia maglia rosa. He has completed a 'Froome slam' of winning three consecutive Grand Tours and joins Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault as the only riders to do so.
While the careers of both Merckx and Hinault are not without questions, Froome's comes with a series of caveats and an asterisk.
He says he is convinced his slam will stand, and Giro d'Italia race director Mauro Vegni has promised not to remove his name from the Giro d'Italia 'albo d'oro' list of winners if Froome is found guilty in his salbutamol case and loses his hard-fought Italian victory. However, the UCI has rebuked such a stance. There is a real risk that if Froome is found guilty of doping, he would lose his Vuelta a España victory and even his Giro d'Italia win. Only his fourth Tour de France win would stand, and an eventual long suspension could mean it could be his last.
Froome's solo raid was quickly dissected and compared against similar rides of the past, such as those by Fausto Coppi to Pinerolo in 1949, by Claudio Chiappucci to Sestriere in 1992, by Marco Pantani on the Galibier in 1998, by Floyd Landis to Morzine in 2006 and by Michael Rasmussen to Tignes in 2007. Many of those were eventually cancelled from the record books or diminished by the real, full truth of their performance.
Froome is defiant that his win will survive.
"I can understand the parallels or comparisons being drawn by some people, but I have every confidence it will stand," Froome said.