Froome vexed by scrutiny

Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, in action during the 201km 16th stage of the Tour de France on Monday. He finished 28th, more than 18 minutes behind winner Ruben Plaza, but still had to answer doping-related questions.
Chris Froome, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey, in action during the 201km 16th stage of the Tour de France on Monday. He finished 28th, more than 18 minutes behind winner Ruben Plaza, but still had to answer doping-related questions.PHOTOS: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Team Sky rider Richie Porte would rather sleep in his motorhome during the Tour de France than hotels.
Team Sky rider Richie Porte would rather sleep in his motorhome during the Tour de France than hotels.

Tour leader asks why his chief rivals aren't subjected to similar analysis on winning races

GAP (France) • From accusations of doping to the use of motorhomes, the level of acrimony towards Team Sky appears to have reached new heights at the Tour de France.

Race leader Chris Froome on Monday branded the constant speculation surrounding him as "strange", after once again facing a barrage of questions about drugs.

He finished 28th on the 16th stage from Bourg-de-Peage to Gap, more than 18 minutes behind winner Ruben Plaza, but still had to answer doping-related questions in the yellow jersey press conference. The 30-year-old Briton suggested the treatment he gets is inconsistent with those of others when they enjoy success.

Since he won the Tour in 2013, four different riders have won the five Grand Tours held between then and this year's Tour.

American Chris Horner was 41 - a record - when he won the 2013 Vuelta a Espana. But, despite that success, his RadioShack team let him leave at the end of the season and just over a year later, he had to drop down to the Continental Tour level (from the World Tour) to find a team.

Nairo Quintana won last year's Giro d'Italia before Vincenzo Nibali, riding for the doping-tainted Astana team, won the Tour that year.

Alberto Contador, who has served a two-year doping ban after testing positive for clenbuterol, then triumphed at last year's Vuelta and this year's Giro.

But none of them has suffered the kind of scrutiny subjected to Froome in either his 2013 success or this year.

"I wouldn't say they need more scrutiny," said Froome. "But I've got to admit it is frustrating to an extent that, if you look at the last five Grand Tours that have been won by different teams and different riders, there hasn't been the same outcry for power data numbers, unless I'm missing something.

"The last five Grand Tours didn't see the same kind of level of questioning... Okay, I won one mountain top finish by 59 seconds - it just seems strange to me."

And, even though motorhomes have been banned at this Tour, Sky are at the centre of a debate about whether they should be allowed.

It was all sparked by Richie Porte turning up at May's Giro d'Italia in his own personal caravan, and the passionate backlash against the use of motorhomes - where a rider sleeps in his own personal caravan rather than at a hotel like the rest of his team or rivals - has not subsided.

French team FDJ's manager Marc Madiot said motorhomes would give some teams an unfair advantage.

"It's a question of equity. Not all the teams are rich enough to buy more and more vehicles," he said.

Observers note that part of the reaction could stem from Team Sky's budget of over £24 million (S$51 million) last year, making them one of the richest teams in the peloton.

But Sky manager Dave Brailsford says motorhomes are about improving performance.

"(We) have always put riders first and seen what areas we can improve their performances," he said. "We know from a sport science point of view that sleep's very important and I like to think about opportunities and ways of looking at the riders in a better way."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2015, with the headline 'Froome vexed by scrutiny'. Print Edition | Subscribe