CHORGES, France —
Froome swears that won’t happen with him. He has repeatedly said when asked at this Tour that he is riding clean — an assurance that only has limited value in the poisonous atmosphere of doubt that is a legacy of the Armstrong years and the American’s confession to Oprah Winfrey this January that he cheated for all seven of his Tour wins, from 1999-2007.
“The problem today is that we are traumatized by the past,” Stephane Heulot, manager of the French Sojasun team, said in an interview. “We’ve seen too many stories like this. We’ve seen too many riders swearing on the heads of their kids, their grandmothers, their mothers that they’re completely clean and then — bam! — 15 years, 10 years, five years later we’re told other things. Someone’s word no longer means anything. We can’t rely on that.”
A union that represents about 600 professional riders from seven European nations supported Froome on Wednesday against what it called “unjustified allegations of doping.”
“It’s not fair to blame someone without evidence against him,” Gianni Bugno, president of the Association of Professional Riders, said in a statement. “We demand more respect for Chris and for all the riders.”
In four days, as long as he gets through the Alps, Froome will be able to sip champagne in the saddle on the final ride to the Champs-Elysees, unusually staged in the evening this year. That would make it two victories in a row for Britain and for Team Sky, after Bradley Wiggins’ win last year.
With wins in the Pyrenees and on Mont Ventoux, Froome has shown excellence going uphill. It would be a big surprise if he wilted on the three days of Alpine climbs that start today with a double ascent to the ski station of L’Alpe d’Huez, with its 21 hairpins bends to the top. Done twice, that’s 42 bends packed with spectators to be negotiated. It promises to be frenzied and spectacular — a dramatic crescendo for what already has been a highlight-rich Tour.