The Last Word: The ghosts of Tours past still haunt Chris Froome

If he wins rumours will persist and if he loses then Contador, a convicted cheat, will benefit

The Tour de France's longest day will end today at the summit of Mont Ventoux, the spiritual resting place of tragic Tommy Simpson. Questions will recur, and acquire fresh relevance. Memories will remain as forbidding as the surrounding moonscape.

The peloton, preoccupied by the pain of a fabled ascent, will pass the polished granite monument to Simpson, the British cyclist whose final words, before lapsing into a fatal coma on 13 July 1967, helped to create the myth of drug-induced martyrdom.

"Put me back on my bike," he told spectators shortly before he lost consciousness. The post-mortem, which confirmed traces of amphetamines in Simpson's blood after drugs were found in his hotel room and his pockets, is his legacy.

It had enduring consequences. Cycling immediately banned the use of performance-enhancing drugs and ushered in an era of superficial concern and unilateral deception. It is still a sport at war with itself. While truth remains a nebulous concept, reconciliation is impossible.

This year's Tour has been intemperate, intense and compelling. Yet it continues to be defiled and devalued by a climate of cynicism, and echoes of the ancient code of omerta. Suspicion, fuelled by envy and resentment, provides the subplot to today's pivotal stage.

Team Sky's emergence, through Bradley Wiggins's win in last year's Tour, was a cultural and philosophical challenge. That it was presented as a victory for clean sport, and proved to be a precursor to the Lance Armstrong revelations, added to the sense of provocation.

Some rivals, such as Britain's David Millar, have welcomed Sky as a positive force, in the best sense of the term. It suits others to overlook the specifics of their success: a big budget, impeccable talent identification and a remorseless attention to detail. Chris Froome will come under unprecedented scrutiny today as he seeks to reassert his authority on the race. For all its heritage and symbolism, the yellow jersey on his back must compete with another colour scheme, created by those seeking perspective from the power he exerts in the mountains.

Antoine Vayer, a veteran coach with influential allies in the French media, has analysed historical climbing performances in an online dossier that is a conspiracy theorist's delight. They are colour coded: yellow is deemed "suspicious", orange "mirac-ulous" and red "mutant". The inference, that riders are pushing the boundaries of believability, is clear.

Dave Brailsford, Sky's team principal, refused a pre-race request to release data on Froome. He cited the competitive advantage this would surrender, and the dangers of misinterpretation by "pseudo scientists" who "produce a lot of noise".

Vayer insists he merely employs the laws of physics. In layman's terms, he uses the weight of a rider and his bike, and the height he ascends, to calculate how much energy he expends. Average power output is derived from the time taken.

Froome understands the nature of such scrutiny, and insists he is clean. He takes particular issue with Vayer's estimation of his average power output, 446 watts, during the final climb of his breakthrough win on Stage Eight, eight days ago. Such numbers are, he contends, "far, far from what I think is possible."

His problem is the thought process of others in a sport which is rudderless because of the power struggle for the presidency of the UCI, cycling's global governing body. This with depressing inevitability has degenerated into an arm-wrestle between PR men. Pat McQuaid, the discredited incumbent, is increasingly desperate and slinging industrial quantities of mud. His British challenger, Bryan Cookson, advised by Olympic spin doctor Mike Lee, is dull but reassuringly worthy.

Today may signal one of the savage ironies of Cookson's potential inheritance. Should Froome falter, Alberto Contador, convicted cheat and Armstrong apologist, is likely to benefit. If Froome wins in Paris next Sunday, the ghosts will rise from their graves.

Equality means stick for the girls

England's footballers succumb to pressure in a major tournament. They are listless, tactically naïve and wasteful in possession. An avoidable defeat results in their manager tap-dancing through the minefield of a live TV interview.

Ritual assurances that the spirit in the squad is unquenchable follow. Every-one waits for the endless cycle of underachievement and self-loathing to intensify.

All very familiar. Why, then, hasn't the herd instinct to condemn been triggered by the dismal start of England's women in the European Championships? It surely cannot all be sexist condescension, that the little ladies are giving it their best.

Perhaps their lack of pre-tension, and evident earnestness, register with those bored with the excuse culture in the men's game. They refuse to hide from areas of weakness, such as goalkeeping, a failing summed up by a calamitous own goal from Karen Bardsley left, against Spain on Friday. France, England's next group opponents, are strong and technically adept. If elimination is greeted by calls for manager Hope Powell to resign, the women's game will have come of age. They deserve the respect of being judged on the same terms as more prominent teams wearing those accursed three lions.

Jacko must go

The Jacksonville Jaguars' owner Shahid Khan, who has added Fulham to his portfolio, is sufficiently plausible to survive a fine comedy moustache. But let's not get carried away by his supposed benevolence. This is strictly business, quite possibly the first step towards the implantation of an NFL team in the capital. If he wants to make an immediate impression, he should confirm his new club's future at Craven Cottage, and dynamite the Michael Jackson statue. Immortality would beckon.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - SQL Server, T-SQL

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst / Data Analyst (SQL Server, T-SQL, data)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Analyst...

Major medical journal Lancet under attack for 'extremist hate propaganda' over its coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Lancet accused of 'anti-Israel hate propaganda' over coverage of Gaza conflict

Threat to free speech as publishers of renowned medical journal are accused of inciting hatred and violence
General Election 2015: Tories and Lib Dems throw their star names west to grab votes

All noisy on the Lib Dems' western front

The party has deployed its big guns in Cornwall to save its seats there. Simon Usborne heads to the heart of the battle
How Etsy became a crafty little earner: The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?

How Etsy became a crafty little earner

The online market has been floated for £1.2bn, but can craft and capitalism coexist?
Guy Ritchie is the latest filmmaker to tackle King Arthur - one of our most versatile heroes

King Arthur is inspiring Guy Ritchie

Raluca Radulescu explains why his many permutations - from folk hero to chick-lit hunk - never cease to fascinate
Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations for the man or woman on the street?

Apple Watch: Will it live up to expectations?

The Apple Watch has apparently sold millions even before its launch tomorrow
Don't fear the artichoke: it's a good cook's staple, with more choice than you'd think

Don't fear the artichoke

Artichokes are scary - they've got spikes and hairy bits, and British cooks tend to give them a wide berth. But they're an essential and delicious part of Italian cuisine
11 best men's socks

11 best men's socks

Make a statement with your accessories, starting from the bottom up
Paul Scholes column: Eden Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo

Paul Scholes column

Hazard would be my Player of the Year – but I wonder if he has that appetite for goals of Messi or Ronaldo
Frank Warren: Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal

Frank Warren's Ringside

Tyson Fury will be closely watching Wladimir Klitschko... when he wins it'll be time to do a deal
London Marathon 2015: Kenya's brothers in arms Wilson Kipsang and Dennis Kimetto ready to take on world

Kenya's brothers in arms take on world

Last year Wilson Kipsang had his marathon record taken off him by training partner and friend Dennis Kimetto. They talk about facing off in the London Marathon
Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad but it's not because I refuse to fly

Natalie Bennett interview: I've lost track of the last time I saw my Dad

Green leader prefers to stay clear of her 'painful' family memories but is more open about 'utterly unreasonable' personal attacks
Syria conflict: Khorasan return with a fresh influx of fighters awaiting the order to start 'shooting the birds'

Khorasan is back in Syria

America said these al-Qaeda militants were bombed out of the country last year - but Kim Sengupta hears a different story
General Election 2015: Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North for Ukip?

On the campaign trail with Ukip

Is William Cash the man to woo Warwickshire North?
Four rival Robin Hood movies get Hollywood go-head - and Friar Tuck will become a superhero

Expect a rush on men's tights

Studios line up four Robin Hoods productions
Peter Kay's Car Share: BBC show is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade

In the driving seat: Peter Kay

Car Share is the comedian's first TV sitcom in a decade. The programme's co-creator Paul Coleman reveals the challenges of getting the show on the road