After the furore that surrounded him at this year's Tour de France, Chris Froome says that he refused to apply for a TUE for an infection he picked up in the latter part of the race. Froome and his teammates endured an often hostile reaction from some members of the public during this year's Tour. Several of them were spat at, while Froome also claimed that one fan even threw urine at him.
Froome fell ill after stage 17 of this year's Tour but, despite the insistence of the team, he decided to not want to apply for stronger medication via a TUE to alleviate the symptoms.
"After everything we had been through in this year's Tour, especially the hostility from different people along the way, it just felt that if we go down this route, we are opening the door for a whole new wave of criticism and aggression. It would have been within the rules, but I didn't want it to be the Tour de France that was won because he took this medication in the last week," Froome told the Sunday Times.
In June 2014, French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche reported that Froome had a TUE application for corticosteroid prednisolone fast-tracked during his race winning performance at the Tour de Romandie. The UCI responded that there was nothing untoward with the application process, but the issue left Team Sky under scrutiny.
Froome was on track to win his second Tour de France this July when he fell ill. The Team Sky rider went into the final week with a 3:10 lead over second place Nairo Quintana (Movistar). That was reduced to just over a minute by the time they reached Paris at the end of the week. He lost most time on the final mountain stage to l'Alpe d'Huez and said afterwards that he was close to losing the race.
Trying to avoid showing any signs of weakness, Froome said he resorted to holding his breath so as not to cough in front of his rivals. It wasn't until one keen-eared journalist noticed a change in Froome's voice following the penultimate stage that he admitted he had been ill throughout closing stages.
"[I] woke up all congested, blocked up, sore throat and I could feel it getting down into my chest, sort of tightening it. I was put on a short course of antibiotics but it had no effect. I was trying to hold it in, so my rivals wouldn't hear me coughing and wheezing . . . the most difficult times were on the start line where I had [Nairo] Quintana on one side, Contador on the other," Froome explained.
"I would be standing there with a burning sensation to cough or needing to get some phlegm up, but I would hold my breath to stop myself. I didn't want them to see I was battling with this. Just don't let them see anything. I couldn't wait for the neutral zone so I could get to the side of the road, blow my nose and get it all up."
Froome had to rely heavily on his teammates Richie Porte, Wout Poels and Geraint Thomas in the final stages. However, Thomas - who had also been in contention for a strong GC finish - was suffering after all the work that he had put in to help Froome earlier in the race. Thomas indicated earlier this week that he would be ready to leave Team Sky in the future to help further his own general classification ambitions. Froome believes that the Welshman will gain an elevated status at next year's race, given what he did this season.
"We asked a lot of Geraint in this year's Tour, the work he did in the first week and then in the mountains. Next year, he has to be more protected and should be allowed, probably, to be the last guy to work in the mountains. He's capable of riding for GC [general classification] and we have to allow him to do that."
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