Chris Froome: I'm clean and if I win no one will strip me of Tour title

The Sky rider is ready for the whispers if he succeeds Sir Bradley Wiggins as winner of the Tour de France

Nice

It was five years ago in Tarbes, a small town that squats among the foothills of the Pyrenees in France's far south-west, that Chris Froome watched Moises Duenas, a team-mate and a suspected doper, being led out of their hotel in handcuffs. He never saw the Spaniard again.

Froome was a raw, fledgling rider, a neo-pro in cycling parlance, competing in his first Tour de France. On Saturday he will take his place on the start line for the opening stage of the 100th edition of the Tour, a gentle – in Tour terms – 213km amble along the Corsican coast, and will do so as strong favourite to win the race.

Froome has come a long way from that debut ride in 2008 but the image of a team-mate being hustled away by a swarm of French policemen – around 40 turned up at the hotel – has remained with him, much as the suspicion of doping has remained with the Tour and the sport beyond. At last month's Giro d'Italia two riders tested positive. This is the first Tour since the full horrors of Lance Armstrong's abuse of the sport was laid damningly bare by the US Anti-Doping Agency.

Yet Froome believes that when he swings himself into the saddle in Porto-Vecchio on Saturday he will do so as part of a peloton that is cleaner than it was been in up to three decades. The 28-year-old Briton is part of a Sky team that has made much of being clean, and even potentially harmed their own prospects with a mini purge of former dopers from their riding and coaching ranks during the close season. If in three weeks' time he is riding down the Champs Elysees in yellow then, Froome insists, he will do so secure in the knowledge that his name will remain in the record books in perpetuity.

"There is still a lot of criticism out there, scepticism out there and a lot of fans who have been let down," says Froome, talking in a Nice hotel this week after returning from Sky's pre-Tour camp in Chatel. "I sympathise with that. I am one of those fans who was also let down [he watched the Armstrong-era Tours as a schoolboy at boarding school in Africa]. It was a big knock for the sport, but we are now in a position where we can show that the sport has changed. I certainly know how I work for the results I get and I know that my results aren't going to be stripped in five, six, seven years' time.

"I think the sport is in probably the best place it has been in the last 20, 30 years in that respect. Moving on from the revelations we had from Lance last year has now given us the opportunity to show people that the sport has changed."

Two Italians, Mauro Santambrogio, a stage winner, and Danilo di Luca, tested positive for EPO during the Giro, but the reaction to their cheating is what Froome uses to show how times have changed. The days of the peloton's omerta are no more.

"I feel that has been broken," says Froome. "Anyone now who does it, it is not only costing them their career, it is potentially taking down a whole team of cyclists plus the 50-odd support men. I was happy to see the response to [the Giro cases] – that it is just not accepted any more. It is clear that those guys are acting on their own. They are the absolute minority and it's great that the tests have picked them up.

"It's something you can see is just not accepted any more. Simple as that. You are not going to have any friends in the bunch if you come back from a two-year doping ban."

Alberto Contador, back in the peloton after serving a doping ban – and one of Froome's leading rivals – is unlikely to find himself isolated, and while cycling has done more than most sports to address the problem, there are plenty who would not – at least not yet – share Froome's upbeat assessment.

A recent article in a French magazine included Froome in a list of riders who have produced some "abnormal" performances in recent years. There was no direct allegation but the insinuation was evident. In the post-Armstrong era it is a fact of cycling life.

"It's hard not to get angry over reports like that because it almost feels the better we do our job the more people think we're doping," says Froome. "But I do sympathise with these people in that they have been let down in the past and that they are only judging those comments and reports on past history."

The whispering game that accompanies the Tour memorably irritated Sir Bradley Wiggins last year, and Froome, if he is to wear the yellow jersey for any length of time, will face a similar inquisition. Sky like to plan with meticulous attention to detail – they wanted Wiggins in yellow early so he would get used to it. They wanted Froome to win races this year – he has won four – so he became used to being in the spotlight. Is he ready for it to get even brighter and harsher?

"I'm expecting to have to answer questions about doping," he says. "But I'm really confident the races I've done building up to the Tour, being able to get the results that I've got, show that cycling really has changed. If people are doping it's not working – they're not winning the races any more, that's for sure."

Five who threaten Froome

Cadel Evans (Australia)

BMC, 36: 2011 Tour de France winner is at an age when many pros have retired — but third in the recent Giro d'Italia shows "Cuddles" is still in the game.

Alberto Contador (Spain)

Saxo-Tinkoff, 30: Five Grand Tour wins to date, a beefed up team to back him and a ferociously aggressive racing style, Contador is Froome's No 1 rival.

Nairo Quintana (Colombia)

Movistar, 23: A hugely talented climber, classy time trialist and in one of the Tour's strongest teams. His weakness? Inexperience.

Andy Schleck (Luxembourg)

RadioShack, 28: If he overcomes the injuries and illnesses he's been battling for 18 months, Schleck could be a real dangerman overall.

Ryder Hesjdal (Canada)

Garmin-Sharp, 32: The winner of the 2012 Giro d'Italia was knocked out of last year's Tour in a first-week crash — and wants winning revenge.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

£450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

Manager - SAS - Data Warehouse - Banking

£350 - £365 per day: Orgtel: Manager, SAS, Data Warehouse, Banking, Bristol - ...

Web Analyst – Permanent – West Sussex – Up to £43k

£35000 - £43000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment