Froome cops drug gibes
Tour leader rises above taunts
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.