Chris Froome may face bigger challenges off the bike as he gets ready for another journey through France for what could be a record-equalling fifth Tour de France title. Fans and the media are giving him a hard time though.
The defending champion was cleared of any wrongdoing by cycling’s governing body following an investigation after excessive levels of asthma drug Salbutamol was found in his urine sample during last September’s Vuelta a Espana, just in time for this year’s Tour de France, Yahoo News reports.
In a column in French newspaper Le Monde, the Team Sky rider, attempting to become the first person since Marco Pantani in 1998 to achieve the Giro d’Italia-Tour double, wrote that: “the build up to this race has not been the easiest for me, for the race organizers and for you all – the cycling fans and people of France who are the heartbeat of the Tour.”
During the teams presentation in the Vendee region on Thursday, Froome was greeted with a hostile crowd. It reminded him of a particularly tough ride on the 2015 Tour de France, when he had a cup of urine thrown on his face and was called a doper by a spectator, Yahoo News reports.
Team Sky’s dominance and their perceived arrogance have raised questions and triggered suspicions, although no doping allegations have been proven, according to Yahoo News.
Froome managed to brush off the criticism and is still a favorite to be at the top of the podium in Paris in three weeks. Karma may be catching up with him as he got caught up in a crash on the first stage on Saturday. He’s still racing but lost some time. He’ll have plenty of chances to make up any lost time this early on and before time trials and mountain stages.
Sky’s collective force and the Briton’s ability to hold off his rivals in the mountains makes him the man to beat even if the opposition has been sharpening their knives, according to Yahoo News.
France’s Romain Bardet, who’s finished in the top three at the tour before, and Giro champion Tom Dumoulin, think Froome should not have been racing while under investigation.
“I hope he will get a kind welcoming,” said Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme.
“The Tour de France fans, it’s about 10-12 million people, who come on the roads with their family. But among those, some of them could have other reactions.”
Team Sky should be the strongest team by far yet again and even have some backup cyclists who can go for the individual overall victory, the yellow jersey