Chris Froome suffers power failure after ‘favouritism’ allegations

 

Chris Froome experienced a rough day on several fronts yesterday as the Kenyan-born Briton cracked badly in the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, while Team Sky were forced to fend off allegations in the French press of favouritism by cycling’s governing body, the UCI, towards the defending Tour champion.

As little as 48 hours earlier, Froome’s build-up to the Tour de France had seemed to be going perfectly. His stunning displays of power in the Dauphiné’s initial time trial and the first summit finish that followed on stage two, coupled with a solid defence of the overall lead, suggested that the Briton was destined to repeat last year’s win – the ideal springboard, as it was in 2013, for a repeat win in the Tour de France.

However, a crash late on Friday’s stage left Froome nursing several injuries, all apparently minor but which when combined rendered it impossible for the Briton to chase down a late attack by arch-rival Alberto Contador on Saturday’s first Alpine stage. As a result, the Sky rider lost the lead by eight seconds to the Spaniard.

Much worse was to follow in a second mountainous stage yesterday, when a mass counter-attack by Sky saw Froome and the British squad isolate race leader Contador. But when the moment came for Froome to attack and leave Contador reeling, instead it was the Spaniard who, some 22 kilometres from the line, dropped a flailing Froome.

While Contador powered away in pursuit of American Andrew Talansky–and although he closed the gap to a minute, the American was able to stay clear, finish fourth on the stage, and win the race outright – Froome struggled badly to limit the damage as best he could.

Although Sky were able to draw some comfort from a fine stage win for Mikel Nieve, Froome’s time loss of over five minutes on the stage leaders, and his plunginsg from second to 12th overall, represents his first major defeat in the mountains in over two years.

As if Froome’s sudden loss of power was not worrying enough in the build-up to the Tour, on top of that the team had to deny French media allegations of favouritism by the UCI towards its top rider.

According to Le Journal du Dimanche, prior to winning the Tour of Romandie last month in Switzerland, Froome had been suffering from a respiratory infection and received a TUE [Therapeutic Use Exemption] certificate from the UCI so he could use a glucocorticosteroid drug to treat the illness.

The UCI has denied any suspect behaviour – as the paper alleges – in its handling of the procedure dealing with Froome’s TUE certificate, saying in a statement that “any rider with the same symptoms  as Froome would have received a similar TUE”.

The Sky team principal, Dave Brailsford, said that “Dr [Mario] Zorzoli, the UCI [head] doctor, told us what we could and couldn’t [do], we’ve always stayed within  the rules, so we’ve got nothing to hide.”

Froome later added: “We went through the correct process, and the UCI have confirmed that. It’s just a pity that everything is perceived in a negative light. TUEs have their place in sport, they exist for a reason.”

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