Froome on the de­fen­sive

Bri­tish rider faces skep­tics de­spite hold­ing a big lead

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY JOHN LE­ICES­TER

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 rearview mir­ror. But against skep­tics 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 at him this week­end, 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.

Be­ing doubted, be­ing hauled over of the coals of sus­pi­cion day-in, day-out, is the bill that must be paid now for win­ning a post-Armstrong Tour, es­pe­cially when you’re crush­ing ri­vals with ap­par­ent ease like the Amer­i­can did on the seven Tour vic­to­ries that were later stripped from him.

Two weeks in, the skep­ti­cism is get­ting un­der Froome’s very thick skin. It’s hard to find a more mild-man­nered chap in the pelo­ton than the gan­gly, some­times awk­ward, Kenyaborn Bri­ton. But as he pre­pares for the Alps, the ul­ti­mate test at this Tour, a hard­en­ing in his at­ti­tude and tone is un­mis­tak­able.

He blames “very ir­re­spon­si­ble” media for turn­ing public opin­ion against him.

He started on that theme Satur­day af­ter the urine in­ci­dent and de­vel­oped it 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.

And for those who will still lis­ten, he again re­peated that “times have changed” from the Armstrong era.

“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.

“It was the other way around 10 or 15 years ago. There is no rea­son in this day and age for that level of sus­pi­cion to con­tinue. There’s ab­so­lutely no rea­son.”


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