PARIS, July 27- Chris Froome admitted he’d been “up against everything” at the Tour de France where he was accused of cheating, spat upon and had urine thrown at him.
The 30-year-old Briton did not just overcome 21 stages, 3,600km, cobbles, crosswinds and seven ‘hors category’ mountains, not to mention rivals such as Vincenzo Nibali, Nairo Quintana and Alberto Contador, but everything outside the course as well.
As well as being the victim of a series of attacks, Froome’s Sky teammates were also targeted.
Richie Porte was punched, Luke Rowe spat at, Geraint Thomas barged off the road and into a lamppost and down a ravine, while team manager Dave Brailsford was blindsided live on French television with “evidence” that Froome’s performance was “abnormal”.
And yet, Froome has kept his cool, ridden hard and battled right to the end, despite feeling ill with a tight chest, to beat Quintana by 1min 12sec to win his second Tour.
And what made this Tour victory so much greater than his first two years ago — where he also faced suspicion over his mountain prowess — is that the scrutiny has been intense and constant.
“It’s hard to compare one Tour victory to another, both are incredibly special,” said Froome who has insisted he is a clean rider.
“But I do feel as if this year, even though it’s the second time for me, as a team we’ve been up against it.
“There’s been so much going on in the background away from the race which could’ve taken a lot of focus away from what we needed to achieve in terms of the racing.
“But as a group it’s even brought us closer together as a team.
“I just want to thank the guys for putting up with a lot of the rubbish that’s been going on these last few weeks and staying focused on the job at hand.”
– Acceleration –
Froome has been under the spotlight ever since his victories atop Ax 3 Domaines and Mont Ventoux in 2013, despite being beaten by Quintana in two subsequent stages in the Alps, including on Alpe d’Huez.
This year, Froome put in just one fulminating acceleration to win stage 10 at La Pierre-Saint Martin, and even then he only gained 1min 04sec on Quintana.
The Colombian beat him in two Alpine stages again, gaining 30sec and 1min 20sec on those two occasions.
But what made the difference for Froome was consistency, and especially the 1min 28sec he gained on Quintana on the second stage in the crosswinds.
But for that, where Quintana was held up behind a crash, Froome may not even have won the Tour, yet the accusations have been relenting and he even faced open animosity on the roads.
Television pictures captured images of people spitting at Froome and even one elderly man aiming a trio of rapid-fire rude gestures — know as ‘up yours’ in English, or a ‘bras d’honneur’ (arm of honour) in French — at the Briton.
Yet barring one angry tirade at outgoing champion Vincenzo Nibali for attacking the yellow jersey when Froome suffered a mechanical issue on Friday, the Kenyan-born rider has kept his cool throughout.
And despite the unflattering comparisons to disgraced former star Lance Armstrong, Froome is not taking it personally.
“I just see it as something that comes along with the yellow jersey,” he said.
“I know I’ve done nothing wrong to deserve this, it’s not something I’m going to take on personally, it’s circumstantial.”
Brailsford described Froome as “a credit to Britain” and the “most unbelievable” competitor”.
But the road to win over his detractors remains a long one, and is perhaps one battle that Froome simply cannot win.