Tour de France 2015: Chris Froome will ignore doping gossip and focus on job, says team-mate Geraint Thomas

Briton retains yellow jersey as innuendo continues to swirl

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The Independent Online

On another day when doping innuendo continued to swirl through the Tour de France, Geraint Thomas has lent some support to his Sky team-mate Chris Froome by conceding there was little to be done about such rumours and riders had just developed thick skins in the face of it. “We’ll just keep on doing what we’re doing, focus on the job and enjoy it,” he said.

Froome, who has been at the centre of the gossip, did brilliantly focusing on that job, retaining his overall lead race lead after his rivals failed to attack him on the 11th stage, a 188-km Pyrenean trek.

Afterwards, however, the questions again switched to the innuendo, to which Froome repeated that he was willing to undergo a full set of tests to end any doubts. “Obviously, right now, my focus is on the race, but I’m certainly open to potentially doing some testing at some point after the Tour, at whatever point,” Froome said. “If we find an independent expert in the field who can analyse the data from a physiological point of view, yes, sure.”

Froome’s comments came the day after Sky revealed that data from Froome’s performances in former Grand Tours had been hacked, though there are counter-claims that it was leaked. Froome countered by saying he was not going to simply, as he put it, “release data out there into the public [domain]. You can see the effects of the supposed leaked file that went out there. That’s done no one any good, it doesn’t prove one thing or another. That’s pointless”.

 

One area which has caused intense speculation has been Froome’s apparently abnormally low heart-rate in one stage of last year’s Vuelta a Espana where he finished second overall. But he pointed out that the subject was hardly news, given it had already been covered in his biography.

“My maximum heart-rate is only about 170. After two weeks of a Grand Tour, I’m quite surprised it went as high as 160. It’s normal once I get two weeks into a Grand Tour, 10 beats off my maximum when I’m going as hard as I can.”

Sky’s team principal, Sir Dave Brailsford proposed a “power output passport”, to be analysed by experts in conjunction with the existing biological passport, which already detects physiological abnormalities.

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Polish climber Rafal Majka won Wednesday’s 11th stage in Cauterets after a solo breakaway going up the Tourmalet (Getty)

Just as there is a certain weary familiarity about the doping speculation – which arises whenever a cyclist does a strong ride in the Tour – the Sky leader’s willingness to provide background data has some historical precedents.

Froome’s former team-mate Sir Bradley Wiggins released blood data after his breakthrough top-five finish in the 2009 Tour, as did American Chris Horner following his 2013 Vuelta victory when he became, at 41, the oldest Grand Tour winner.

Froome’s discussion about ways of battling doping speculation coincides of course with the return of Lance Armstrong, riding two stages of the Tour route for charity, although the Briton and his team-mates are indifferent to it. “We definitely don’t see it as him being back at the Tour,” Froome said. “It’s a non-event for us.”

Wednesday’s stage, won by Tinkoff-Saxo climber Rafal Majka, had little long-term effect on the race except to confirm the fading form of last year’s winner, Vincenzo Nibali. The Italian lost 50 seconds as a result of a flurry of late attacks in the main yellow jersey group, dropping out of the top 10 overall.

On Thursday’s hardest and final Pyrenean stage, culminating with the 10-mile climb of Plateau de Beille, Nibali may suffer even more.

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