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July 16, 2013

Looking unbeatable

ENTRECHAUX, France — There appears to be little to stop Chris Froome from reaching the Champs-Elysees on Sunday in the yellow jersey and becoming the second straight British cyclist to win the Tour de France.

After another brutal attack in the mountains on Sunday, Froome leads Bauke Mollema and Alberto Contador by more than four minutes with only six stages left — four of them suited to him. There is a time trial on Wednesday, followed by three straight days of tortuous climbs in the Alps.

But winning looks like the easy part.

The 28-year-old Froome’s physical superiority at the 100th Tour has raised eyebrows, practically inevitable in the climate of suspicion that haunts cycling after Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven titles for serial doping.

This year’s race is the first since Armstrong lost his titles, and Froome understands the tone of the questions.

Still, he was unhappy that doping became a main topic of his news conference on Monday’s rest day. That followed his stage win on Mont Ventoux, a mammoth climb in Provence that he tamed with two blistering attacks and where he left Contador — the 2007 and ‘09 Tour champion — lagging behind.

“I just think it’s quite sad that we’re sitting here the day after the biggest victory of my life ... quite a historic win, talking about doping,” Froome said. “Here I am basically being accused of being a cheat and a liar and that’s not cool.

“To compare me with Lance, I mean, Lance cheated. I’m not cheating. End of story.”

With so many of cycling’s recent exploits later shown to have been drug-assisted, people understandably want to know whether they should continue believing. Froome’s performances are subject to intense debate on social media, cycling blogs and in mainstream media.

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