Tour de France leader Chris Froome protested yesterday at the level of scrutiny and questioning he has endured compared with previous race winners after a stage in which team-mate Geraint Thomas escaped serious injury in a major downhill crash.
After a week of seemingly self-perpetuating doping innuendo, Froome continued to take things calmly when asked yet more questions in his press conference, but expressed disappointment concerning the zeal with which his latest Tour lead is being questioned.
“It is frustrating to an extent,” said the Team Sky rider. “If you look at the last five Grand Tours that have been won by different teams, different riders, there hasn’t been the same kind of outcry for power data and numbers and all the rest of it.
“Unless I’m missing something, I didn’t see Contador and all the others in the last five Grand Tours get that same level of questioning, [or] why it seems to be such a hot topic in this year’s Tour de France.”
“Okay, I won one mountain top finish [at La Pierre-Saint-Martin last Tuesday] by 59 seconds. It [the questioning] just seems strange to me.”
In 2014, Vincenzo Nibali faced persistent questions during his dominant Tour, while in 2012 and 2013 both of the Tour winners, Bradley Wiggins and Froome, faced barrages of inquiries. But Froome seemed to argue yesterday that the level of suspicion this year is higher than in 2013.
Having entered into a live debate on French television with exercise physiologist Pierre Sallet on Sunday about Froome’s performances, Team Sky general manager Sir David Brailsford said he would consider publishing data to respond to some of the estimates of Froome’s power output during the Tour. Asked later, Froome himself said he would have “no problem” with that happening.
Brailsford said at the start to stage 16: “I think we’ll have a look at it tonight and for the rest day we might just release an average cadence or the average power.
“But… you’ve got to understand all of these things before you start interpreting the numbers. You’ve got to be careful with it, just throwing numbers out there, but equally I think there’s no harm in sharing a few numbers to give some concrete evidence of where we’re at.”
Froome came through yesterday’s stage, won by Spain’s Ruben Plaza, in good shape, although Thomas suffered a spectacular downhill crash.
As the riders were lined out on the the notoriously tough descent of the Col de Manse, Thomas was struck a glancing blow when France’s Warren Barguil skidded into the Welshman on the inside of a bend. Sent off balance, Thomas fell backwards across a fence, striking the back of his head against a fencepole and then grinding to a halt in the higher part of a ravine.
It later emerged that Thomas had managed to recover from the crash and was back on his bike in record time. Guided by team-mate Wout Poels, who dropped back, the double Olympic gold medallist crossed the line in 34th place before rebuking Barguil, losing 38 seconds on the favourites but holding onto his sixth place overall.
Thomas said: “You should just stay where you are in the group, there were only eight or 10 of us. Everybody knows it’s a dodgy descent, this was a question of just getting down it safe and staying in one line.”
“I was coming into a corner, Barguil just came straight into me. I’m okay, I headbutted the wooden pole thing but luckily there was a barrier and it stopped me falling.”
Barguil was visibly upset about the accident, saying later: “My apologies to Geraint, I was pushed from behind by another rider. There wasn’t anything I could do.”
Thomas has suffered some bad falls. In 2013 he raced through the Tour after he fractured his hip early on and in 2005 a piece of metal ricocheted off another rider and smashed into Thomas, rupturing his spleen, which had to be removed. This time, thankfully, the damage doesn’t seem to have been so bad, with Thomas even joking: “The doctor asked me a few questions, my name and stuff, and I said ‘I’m called Chris Froome’.”
Thomas’ team-mate Pete Kennough last night pulled out of the Tour through illness.Reuse content