A French journalist referred to comments and questions from the former riders Laurent Jalabert and Cédric Vasseur who now commentate for different French television channels during the Tour de France, They apparently expressed doubts about the legitimacy of Froome’s high-cadence attacks.
Jalabert raced for ONCE during the EPO-fuelled nineties and then with Bjarne Riis at CSC. Jalabert was named and shamed by a French senate report into doping in the 1998 Tour de France which tested urine samples for EPO, but he has always vaguely denied doping and kept is job commentating on national French television.
“It’s quite rich coming from Jajabert and Vasseur, to be commenting on my racing in such a way,” Froome said during the press conference after he comfortably defended his race lead atop Plateau de Beille.
“It’s really disappointing, really disappointing. Those guys are people who the fans look up to and here they are casting doubts on current cycling, clean riders and clean teams. In my opinion, that’s not correct.”
On Thursday several French newspapers also questioned Froome’s performances in the mountains and especially the way he blew the peloton apart on the first mountain finish to La Pierre-Saint-Martin on Tuesday to take charge of the Tour de France. L’Equipe published a long article titled: Froome, les raisons pour la malaise – the reasons for the bad feelings.
“I’m disappointed with of some of the articles because I ride clean and Team Sky rides clean. Only time will tell,” Froome said of the reports.
Froome was also asked about a reported phone conversation with Belgian coach Paul van den Bosch, who works with Tim Wellens, Jurgen van den Broecke and Sven Nys. Sporza revealed that Van Den Bosch suggested that Froome used an expensive but controversial ketone supplement, which can provide an additional source of energy and preserve glycogen stores.
Team Sky team manager Dave Brailsford has already denied to Cyclingnews that Team Sky had ever used ketones, and Froome did the same, even calling Van Den Bosch this morning before the stage.
“I just touched base with him, talked about Team Sky and myself, about using ketones drink,” Froome explained. “That’s crazy. I had to Google it find out what it is. But I can say 100% that the team does not use ketones.”
Strong team performance
During the stage both Froome and his Team Sky teammates did little to dissipate the doubts and innuendo by dominating the racing on the third day in the Pyrenees. Team Sky escorted Froome from the start in Lannemezan to the finish on Plateau de Beille.
Several of his overall rivals tried to attack but Richie Porte and then especially Geraint Thomas, rode them down and pulled them back, before Froome launched his own attack.
“I was just testing the legs to see how other guys were riding. I was hoping that one or two might have switched off mentally. I just wanted to get to the finish line in best possible position without losing any time.” Froome explained.
“I was really happy to have Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas with me all the time. It was really was a team effort today. The team rode from start to finish and having someone like Geraint there to bring me to the finish is a dream scenario.”
“The Pyrenees have been great for us and the rain today was not a problem, you have to be able to race in every condition, even if I prefer the heat. We gained time on first stage and then controlled it more. Hopefully we’ve saved energy for the Alps. I’m feeling really good after Pyrenees.”
Thinking of L’Alpe d’Huez
Froome leaves the Pyrenees with a lead of 2:52 on Tejay van Garderen and 3:09 on Nairo Quintana (BMC). Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali are further back and if Froome does not have a bad day, they will surely struggle to even secure a place on the final podium in Paris.
“There’s still lots of terrain for my opponents to try to regain time lost,” Froome said sportingly. “As we saw, the guys were trying today and I expect the same in the Alps and also more hard racing in crosswinds and on the descents. We’ve got to expect everything to be thrown at us.”
Froome may try to gain friends in the peloton and dispel the gathering suspicions about his riding by allowing breaks to dominate the big mountain stages, just as he did on the road to Plateau de Beille. Yet he was clear that he would love to win on L’Alpe d’Huez before being crowned the winner of the Tour de France in Paris.
“If there’s a stage I’d love to win, I’d had to say on L’Alpe d’Huez. It’s the penultimate stage and the last big challenge. In the back of my mind it’s always there,” he said.
“Can I win it in yellow? I have address that one when I get there, but it is one of most iconic stages and so it would be a dream come true.”
Reminded of his problems on L’Alpe d’Huez in 2013, when he suffered after failing to eat and illegally took a gel from a team car via teammate, He joked: We won’t be packing too few gels, that’s for sure.”