Froome cops drug gibes

Tour leader rises above taunts

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT -

DE­SPITE his com­fort­able lead in the Tour de France, Chris Froome heads into the Alps – the last big hur­dle be­tween him and vic­tory in Paris – on the de­fen­sive.

Not against other con­tenders for the podium. They are long gone in the Bri­tish rider’s rear- view mir­ror. But against scep­tics cre­ated by the cheat­ing of Lance Armstrong and other dop­ers, and against the le­gions of fans they be­trayed.

For many of those cy­cling fans, Froome’s per­for­mances are so good that they must be too good to be true. The leader of Team Sky said one spec­ta­tor even hurled a cup of urine, shout­ing “Doper!”

In short, Froome finds him­self in the im­pos­si­ble po­si­tion of be­ing damned by his own suc­cess. No mat­ter how many times he in­sists that he is clean, the words fall on deaf ears. As they would: af­ter all, Armstrong used to say that, too.

Froome un­der­stands that. He knows that the yel­low jersey he wears has been so soiled by the de­ceit of those who wore it be­fore him that some of that dirt, de­servedly or not, is go­ing to rub off on him, too.

But as he pre­pares for the Alps, the ul­ti­mate test at this Tour, a hard­en­ing in his at­ti­tude and tone is un­mis­tak­able.

He started on that theme on Satur­day af­ter the urine in­ci­dent and de­vel­oped it on Sun­day af­ter safely ne­go­ti­at­ing stage 15 that ended with a bunch sprint won by An­dre Greipel. It was the Ger­man’s third vic­tory at this Tour, and it left Froome’s large lead in­tact.

“If peo­ple are led to be­lieve that these per­for­mances are not le­git­i­mate, that’s what’s go­ing to push them to start boo­ing, and to start punch­ing and spit­ting and throw­ing urine on riders,” Froome said. “This isn’t the wild west that it was 10 or 15 years ago,” he said. “Of course, there are still go­ing to be riders who take risks in this day and age, but they are the mi­nor­ity. There is no rea­son in this day and age for that level of sus­pi­cion to con­tinue.”

Still, French po­lice took no chances on Sun­day. Fol­low­ing the urine as­sault, they posted of­fi­cers around Team Sky’s bus.

Out on the road ev­ery­thing is go­ing to plan for Froome. He fin­ished safely in the main pack with the other podium favourites, and there were no changes in their plac­ings.

Froome still leads sec­ond­placed Nairo Quin­tana by 3min 10sec. Te­jay van Garderen, of the BMC team, re­mains 3: 32 back in third.

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