While Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain stood on the final podium of the Tour de France in Paris on Sunday evening as the race celebrated the end of its 100th edition, the absent Lance Armstrong haunted proceedings like Banquo's ghost.
The festivities on the Champs-Élysées included an invitation to (almost) all of the living riders to have finished the Tour but Armstrong – stripped last year of the seven Tour titles he doped to win between 1999 and 2005 – was, of course, persona non grata.
The only allusion to Armstrong's years of excess came from 2013 winner Chris Froome (Sky), whose performances have been met with no little scepticism during this Tour. In his speech atop the podium on the Champs-Élysées, Froome responded to the suspicions surrounding his display with a pointed reference to Armstrong's stripped titles.
"This is one yellow jersey that will stand the test of time," Froome told the crowds who had gathered for the novel dusk finale to the Tour.
Froome and his Sky team have expressed their frustration at the repeated comparisons that have been drawn between their dominance and that of Armstrong and his US Postal squad. Speaking to the television cameras before he stepped onto the podium, however, Froome said that he welcomed the questions that his pre-eminence has raised.
"I'm glad I've had to face those questions after all the revelations of the last year [regarding Armstrong and the US Postal team.] I'm glad that's been channelled towards me," Froome said. "I've been able to deal with it. Cycling has changed – the peloton is standing together."
In a bid to allay some of the murmurings regarding Froome's Tour victory, Sky released power data from some of his final ascents over the past two years to L'Équipe during the week, although the information in the so-called “Froome dossier" does not predate the 2011 Vuelta a España, when he first emerged as a grand tour contender.
"Crossing the line with [the] guys brought tears to my eyes. I expected it to be big but this is something else," Froome said.
On taking the microphone atop the podium, Froome spoke in French to thank his hosts and then moved to English to pay tribute to his teammates' efforts, and he dedicated his victory to his late mother, Jane, who died shortly before he made his Tour debut in 2008.
“Without her encouragement to follow my dreams, I'd probably be at home watching this event on TV," Froome said. "It's a great shame she never got to come see the Tour, but I'm sure she'd be extremely proud if she were here tonight."
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