After the storm surrounding Mo Farah’s missed drugs tests, British Tour de France winner Chris Froome has admitted that he, too, missed a test after anti-doping officials were not allowed to go up to his hotel room.
“That was a hugely frustrating situation for me. I did appeal against it and try to explain the circumstances to the authorities, but at the end of the day, I do take responsibility for that case,” said the Team Sky rider, who won the Tour in 2013 and is a key contender this year.
Froome, who lives in Monaco, explained that he was “on a couple of recovery days and I took my wife down to quite an exclusive hotel in Italy. The first morning we were down there, the authorities showed up at seven o’clock in the morning and the hotel wouldn’t give them access to our room. They also refused to let them call up to the room.
“When we came down for breakfast, they said to us, ‘oh, anti-doping guys were here to test you this morning, it’s our policy not to let anyone disturb our clients’.”
He admitted he should have been “more proactive in letting the hotel know there was a possibility I could be tested. I’ve certainly learnt my lesson. It’s always the athlete’s responsibility to make sure they are available for testing.”
As in other sports, if cyclists miss three out-of-competition tests, they are subject to a disciplinary investigation. French track rider Gregory Bauge lost two 2011 World Championships titles from his one-year back-dated ban.
Froome has started his final build-up to the Tour de France in defiant mood by saying: “I respect my rivals, but I don’t fear anyone.” He added that he feels more relaxed not coming into the race as defending champion.
The 30-year-old has one big problem, though: the recent ban on sleeping in motorhomes during the Tour has left him worried he will not get a proper night’s sleep.
Other than that, the 2013 Tour winner said he is in top shape for this year’s race after being forced to pull out of last year’s Tour when he crashed badly in the opening week and fractured his hand. Since then he has felt a “burning desire” to get back into the race as soon as possible, though missing out has had one unexpected benefit. “I feel like I am coming into the race with a lot less pressure on my shoulders,” he said. “I’m a lot more relaxed this time around not coming in as defending champion.”
The Kenyan-born Briton argued that the race’s first week, a challenging mixture of rough cobbles, exposed roads and uphill finishes in northern France and Belgium, will make for a very tough start to the race, which begins a week on Saturday.
“That first week really is going to be crucial,” Froome said. “The first nine days, actually, until we get up into the mountains on stage 10. In my mind, it’s almost as if each one of those nine stages is like a Classic race in its own right.”
With rivals like Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali – all winners of at least one Grand Tour – named as race favourites alongside Froome, the Sky leader said: “I think the way the Tour is structured this year, it really is building up to be an epic battle between the big rivals.
“This is probably the biggest battle we’ve seen for years so it’s exciting and we can’t wait to get the show on the road now.”
However, Froome’s enthusiasm has been dampened somewhat by a recent decision by the UCI, cycling’s governing body, banning riders from sleeping in motorhomes. Sky had successfully tested using a deluxe motorhome as a mobile hotel in the recent Giro d’Italia for their top contender Richie Porte. Froome said he was not at all happy that the UCI has promptly banned such vehicles, arguing it made for greater rider equality .
“You get into some of those race hotels and one night you’re on a hard bed and one night you’re on a soft bed and you wake up with a sore back,” Froome said. “Some of the rooms are without air conditioning. As you know, in mid-July in France you’re going to be sweating for 10 hours if that’s the case. At least with a camper van or motorhome, you look at controlling some of those factors.”Reuse content