Doping doubts keeping up with dominance
07/16/2013 12:00 AM
07/16/2013 7:12 AM
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 consecutive British cyclist to win the Tour de France.
After another brutal attack in the mountains Sunday, Froome leads Bauke Mollema and Alberto Contador by more than four minutes with six stages left – four of which are suited to him.
There is a medium mountain stage from Vaison-la-Romaine to Gap today and a time trial Wednesday, followed by three days of torturous climbs in the Alps.
But winning looks like the easy part. 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 doping.
This year's race is the first since Armstrong lost his titles, and Froome, 28, 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 2009 Tour champion – lagging.
"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."
Froome would much rather focus on the Alps, and judging by what Contador saw on the 13-mile ascent up Ventoux, the Spaniard has every reason to fear more misery there.
"My objective was to win the Tour, but (Froome) is a level above the rest," Contador said.
Ventoux was tough, but Thursday's 18th stage features two big climbs up l'Alpe d'Huez, one of the Tour's most famed mountain passes.
That is bad enough, but Friday's 127-mile trek from Bourg d'Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand looks horrendous.
The day begins with two massive climbs, known as HC (Hors Categorie, essentially meaning they are beyond classification because they are so tough) and finishes with two Category 1 climbs, a level below HC but incredibly hard.
Saturday's stage ends with a 6.6-mile HC climb to Semnoz.
Froome, however, remains wary of Contador.
"There are a lot of very eager racers in the peloton left with a lot still to prove," Froome said. "For us, it's about keeping the yellow jersey and riding in whatever way we can to best defend. I don't think we are necessarily on a mission to try and win every mountaintop finish."
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