The Norman Transcript

Sports

July 19, 2013

Finally, France tastes victory in Tour

(Continued)

NORMAN —

Watching the riders’ high-wire act on the Col de Sarenne descent, especially a heart-in-mouth moment when Froome’s rival Alberto Contador zipped past him as they sped downhill, was an adrenaline high.

The double ascent to L’Alpe d’Huez made the roadside hordes doubly frenzied. It was as though someone had scooped up an entire outdoor music festival — with hundreds of thousands of people, tents, barbecues, colors, smells, noise, outdoor toilets and all — and scattered them across the mountain. The riders cleaved through curtains of people screaming and running alongside them. A man waving a Japanese flag inadvertently caught it on the handlebar of Froome’s teammate Richie Porte, giving him a fright.

And the French got a perfect crescendo when Riblon spared them the indignity of a Tour without a stage win. The last time that happened was 1999.

“A Frenchman winning on L’Alpe d’Huez is a beautiful recompense for France and for the Tour de France. We, the French, France, our team, didn’t deserve to come out of this Tour de France without a stage victory,” said Riblon.

Riding to the line, he fished a dog tag engraved with the names of his wife and two daughters out of his jersey and kissed it.

Although not from the same country or team, Riblon used the limelight of victory as a soapbox to defend Froome against suspicions voiced in some quarters about the British rider’s performances.

Froome’s clear physical superiority has raised eyebrows. Because cycling was so let down by Lance Armstrong and his generation of dopers, some observers are finding it hard to believe that Froome could be riding clean — even though the sport’s anti-doping tests are more credible now than when Armstrong was winning and cheating.

“I believe in cycling and I don’t think there are many cheats left,” Riblon said. “What I want most of all is to eradicate suspicion. Honestly, I don’t really understand why the yellow jersey (Froome) is being put on trial ... He doesn’t deserve this. When harm is done to the yellow jersey, the whole of cycling is hurt.”

To combat suspicion, Froome’s team released his performance data from six races, including this Tour, to French sports newspaper L’Equipe. The newspaper reported Thursday that it had an outside expert analyze the data — including how much power Froome generated and his climbing times on 18 ascents — and that he found “no anomalies.”

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