Abuse makes Tour harder for Froome: Sky chief

Chris Froome crossing the finish line during the second stage of the Vuelta Tour of Spain cycling race on Aug 23, 2015.
Chris Froome crossing the finish line during the second stage of the Vuelta Tour of Spain cycling race on Aug 23, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

PARIS • Chris Froome will always find it harder to win the Tour de France than his rivals because of the doping suspicions that follow him, his Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford believes.

Speaking after the 2016 Tour route announcement in Paris, Brailsford said the negative publicity his rider is subjected to makes things more difficult for him.

"The other guys don't get the same abuse that he takes, so for Chris to come back and have the appetite to try to win the Tour de France with the French attitude, that makes it harder for him to win it," said the Sky chief.

Froome and his Sky team-mates were subjected to a series of unsavoury incidents during this year's race.

The Kenyan-born Briton had urine thrown at him, his Australian team-mate Richie Porte was punched and several Sky riders, Froome included, were spat at.

It was a case of overcoming trials and tribulations for Froome in an often hostile environment in which the French media constantly questioned him over doping suspicions.

Time and again, the Briton was asked to justify his performances, even though he won only one stage during the race, the 10th and first with a summit finish, on Bastille Day.

What really made the difference for him was his consistency.

His winning margin was only 1min 12sec from Nairo Quintana - less than the time the Colombian lost on the windy second stage when he got caught behind a crash caused by crosswinds.

Froome himself believes next year's route will suit his all-round abilities and that it will test all aspects of the complete cyclist.

Organisers unveiled a balanced route on Tuesday, one that will heavily favour the climbers but also includes two demanding time trials featuring a few ascents.

"It's a great well-balanced route, a bit of time-trialling, quite a bit of climbing and emphasis on the technical side, the descending, a few finish lines close to the bottom of descents," he said.

This year's event featured only one individual time trial.

Froome won the 2013 and 2015 editions thanks to impressive attacks in the mountains - up Mont Ventoux the first time and up La Pierre-Saint-Martin this year.

The 2016 race features a stage that finishes on the summit of the iconic Mont Ventoux, a 22km ascent at an average gradient of 7.2 per cent.

French hope Thibaut Pinot, third in 2014, said Froome will again be the man to beat. "He's the most complete rider," he said.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 22, 2015, with the headline 'Abuse makes Tour harder for Froome: Sky chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe