CAUTERETS, July 16- Tour de France leader Chris Froome has challenged his detractors to prove he has been doping before making unsubstantiated accusations against him.
The 30-year-old has had to put up with a barrage of questions about doping since a stunning victory on the Tour’s 10th stage on Tuesday, when he decimated his rivals to open up an almost three-minute lead over the rest of the field.
With several other mountain stages still to come, some people believe Froome could end up winning this year’s race by a landslide.
It means he’s had to fend off questions about his legitimacy while someone allegedly hacked his Sky team’s computers and stole some training data which was then published on the internet.
“Those people should come and see us train, see how hard we work and see how I live my life,” said a defiant Froome following Wednesday’s 11th stage, in which he maintained his lead.
“Then tell me I’m not clean!”
He added: “People should have some proof before they start making accusations.”
A video of Froome’s famous victory on Mont Ventoux during his 2013 Tour-winning year was published on the internet showing that his heart-rate remained stable at 160 beats per minute despite him accelerating away from his rivals.
Many people reacted incredulously to that, believing it to be impossible.
But Froome dismissed any such concerns.
“I’ve put that data out there myself in my book. I said my maximum heart-rate is only 170,” said the Kenyan-born rider.
“After two weeks of the Tour on Ventoux it’s quite surprising it’s 160, it’s normally a bit lower than that.
“That’s normal, two weeks into a Grand Tour, 10 beats off my maximum when I’m going as hard as I can — for me anyway.”
Sky manager Dave Brailsford has been at pains to try to demonstrate that his team is clean but, like Froome, he said the suspicions were to be expected.
“I think with the past we’ve had in cycling, it’s reasonable,” he said.
“My job is to be here, be open, speak to everyone, take responsibility.
“We’re a team trying to be at the front of everything (anti-)doping.
“It’s normal that people ask questions, my job is to be here, be open and answer those questions.”
– Gallopin surprise –
Brailsford also pointed out that the gaps between Froome and some lesser lights on Tuesday’s stage were nothing to be alarmed about, quite the opposite in fact.
Tony Gallopin, a Frenchman not noted for his climbing ability, and Adam Yates, a 22-year-old Briton riding his first Tour de France, both finished just two minutes behind Froome.
But because the likes of reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali and two-time former winner Alberto Contador lost 4min 25sec and 2min 51sec respectively, tongues started wagging.
It was perhaps exacerbated amongst the locals by French hopes Jean-Christophe Peraud, Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet — second, third and sixth respectively last year — losing between five-and-a-half and ten minutes.
“The surprise was the performance of the others, which wasn’t to the level we expected,” said Brailsford.
“It’s true Chris had a good day but the others weren’t really on top form.”
And in a pointed remark to French accusers, he added: “The big performance (on Tuesday) was Gallopin coming seventh (actually ninth, he’s seventh overall).
“He had a great performance, or young Adam Yates did great (finishing seventh). We didn’t see a great Contador or Nibali but (Nairo) Quintana was ok, if not brilliant.”
Quintana finished just over a minute behind Froome to leave him third overall at 3min 09sec — maybe he is the only rider with any chance of denying Froome a second Tour crown.