PARIS • Defending champion Chris Froome said he was relieved to be able to pursue a fifth Tour de France title after being cleared by cycling's governing body of any wrongdoing in a doping case.
On Monday, the case was dropped by the UCI (International Cycling Union) and the World Anti-Doping Agency, following an investigation after excessive levels of asthma drug salbutamol was found in Froome's urine sample during last September's Vuelta a Espana.
Froome won the Giro d'Italia in May while the investigation was still going on, and the Tour organisers had sought to block his registration prior to the long-awaited verdict.
"Now I just want to draw a line in the sand and move on," the 33-year-old told a news conference.
"My aim is to win and go for a Tour-Giro double.
"Doing the Tour de France and the Vuelta (a Espana) last year taught me an amazing amount about how to manage my training... But really, I can't make a prediction about how it's going to go.
"But things finally worked out and I'm free to race now."
Froome believes he has nothing to fear from the French public, after UCI president David Lappartient called for a safe environment for the British rider during the race.
"I just raced the Giro in May with the salbutamol thing hanging over me, and nothing happened there," Froome added.
"In terms of safety, I obviously would encourage fans of the sport to come watch the race and, if you are not necessarily a Chris Froome fan or a Sky fan, come to the race and put a jersey on of another team you do support. That would be my advice."
Froome's team director Dave Brailsford said Sky were used to operating in a tense atmosphere and slammed the way the information about the rider's test for salbutamol was leaked.
"This is not the first time there has been this (negative) feeling (against the team)," he said when asked about reports in recent days, suggesting Sky may be targeted.
"We knew Chris was innocent from the start, and it was awful the way this information that should never have been released was leaked. It wasn't even technically an 'AAF' (adverse analytical finding) and few people understood this subtle difference."
Brailsford also praised Froome's strength of character after being wrongly accused.
"Chris has shown great strength and integrity while also maintaining his form, he won the Giro under those conditions," he said.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE