A Battle Sky Will Find Hard to Win


Even manager Brailsford's appearance in TV debate does little to help Froome's credibility

PARIS • Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford took to French television on Sunday night to face down some of Chris Froome's critics, only to find that scepticism around the Tour de France leader's achievements will not be banished easily.

He defended Team Sky's methods on the live Stade2 show but, in a sign that the battle for credibility remains a long, hard struggle, the host broadcaster called on a physiologist to cast more suspicion.

It is hard to see how Pierre Sallet's calculations of Froome's power output in his hotly-debated climb up to La Pierre-Saint-Martin last Tuesday could be trustworthy given the estimates involved.

For example, Sallet, who has a doctorate in physiology, made sums based on Froome's weight at 71kg when it is nearer 67kg.

Sallet calculated that Froome had produced a reading of 7.04 watts per kilo and said that a 6.5 reading would be normal and anything over 7.0 was abnormally high.


It is not fair what has been said. Chris is special. He has a special physiology. But he doesn't cheat.

DAVE BRAILSFORD, Team Sky principal, on lead rider Chris Froome

To make matters worse, he claimed that the only people to have recorded readings over 7.0 were doping cheats like Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich.

But, whatever the reliability, the accusation that Froome's output was "abnormally high" in a debate on French TV was yet another accusation to counter.

The Team Sky hierarchy are becoming increasingly exasperated by the innuendo aimed at Froome based on little more than his speed up one section of mountain.

On the TV show, Brailsford called on the International Cycling Union (UCI) to do more to help to demonstrate whether riders are clean.

He wants it to introduce power passports on top of the biological passports used to detect suspicious changes in an athlete's physiology.

Brailsford admitted that it was impossible to prove that his riders are not doping, but believes much more can be done without releasing data to be picked over in public.

"I can work with the UCI, independent experts," he said. "If we had all his (Froome's) measurements from all the climbs he has done in training, we would be able to see the evolution.

"It is not fair what has been said. Chris is special. He has a special physiology. But he doesn't cheat."

Brailsford also repeated his calls for anti-doping officers to be embedded with teams, and insisted that Sky's successes were down to the adoption of methods that were so successful for British Cycling over two decades. "There were no questions then," he said.

Rather than picking over Froome's performance, he said it would be more instructive to look at the failings of his rivals, with Alberto Contador seemingly weakened by winning the Giro d'Italia, Vincenzo Nibali in poor form and Nairo Quintana yet to declare his hand in the Alps.

The continuing scepticism has led to Sky riders being abused. At the start of Stage 15 on Sunday in Mende, the Sky bus was guarded by five policemen.

There was booing on the road to Valence but no repeat of the scenes from the previous day, when Froome had urine chucked in his face and two riders were spat at.

On a day that started hilly but offered glory for the sprinters, Andre Greipel secured his third stage victory of this Tour and ninth in total at the Grand Boucle.



A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 21, 2015, with the headline 'A Battle Sky Will Find Hard to Win'. Print Edition | Subscribe