Yellow jersey worth dope talk

Team Sky riders Geraint Thomas (right) and Chris Froome, in the race leader's yellow jersey, during the 186.5km 18th stage from Gap to Saint-Jean- de-Maurienne in the French Alps on Thursday. Froome leads the overall standings by a seemingly unbeatab
Team Sky riders Geraint Thomas (right) and Chris Froome, in the race leader's yellow jersey, during the 186.5km 18th stage from Gap to Saint-Jean- de-Maurienne in the French Alps on Thursday. Froome leads the overall standings by a seemingly unbeatable 3min 10sec.PHOTO: REUTERS

Commanding lead a dream for Froome despite having to fend off accusations

SAINT JEAN DE MAURIENNE (France) • Chris Froome says he is happy to put up with all the doping suspicions he has faced at the Tour de France because wearing the yellow jersey makes it worthwhile.

The 30-year-old British cyclist has faced constant speculation about the validity of his success during this Tour following a strong showing on the first mountain stage in the Pyrenees 10 days ago.

He leads Nairo Quintana by 3min 10sec with two Alpine mountain stages left. During the Tour, he has been accused of doping and riding a motorised bicycle but, despite the unpleasantness of it, Froome says he would rather be in this position than the one he was in last year.

Twelve months ago, he crashed out of the fifth stage with a broken hand and wrist in the defence of his Tour crown. He had to sit at home and watch as Vincenzo Nibali rode to a commanding Tour victory.

And a year before Froome's 2013 success, compatriot Bradley Wiggins had said he hated the intrusive media attention of being the Tour leader and then winner.

"I definitely do not hate being in this position, I've worked too hard to hate being here, it's a dream scenario," said Froome, who was born in Kenya and grew up in South Africa. "You just have to look back to last year when I was sitting at home and watching the race on the television with a broken hand and wrist.

"There's absolutely no way I'd change anything right now - this is a dream for me."

Even so, the Sky team leader had to face down more questions over his performances after Thursday's 18th Tour stage. He was asked about his connections with a doctor based in his home town of Monaco, and about motorised bicycles as his own ride was examined after Thursday's stage.

"Most of the suspicions are all in social media and online but they surely don't come from nowhere," said Froome about motorised bicycles. "The technology exists. Yes, my bike was one of those checked (on Thursday) - I'm happy they're doing the checks, they're probably needed given all the rumours."

As for the doctor Stephane Bermon, no doping allegations have been levelled against him. He lives in the same town as Froome.

"He is the doctor at the Monaco Institute of Sport, I have been in there a couple of times for pulmonary function tests with Dr Bermon," said Froome.

"Those results have all been documented and everything."

Two days before, the Briton admitted that doping suspicions would follow him in his whole career. On Tuesday's rest day, Sky had released some of his training and race data to quell the accusations that his performances were doping-induced.

But the reaction in some media was simply to question the reliability of that data. "There are a lot of people out there who have already made up their minds and no matter what information we make public, that's not going to change their opinions," said Froome.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TOUR DE FRANCE
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2015, with the headline 'YELLOW JERSEY WORTH DOPE TALK'. Print Edition | Subscribe