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PLATEAU DE BEILLE, France (AFP) — Tour de France leader Chris Froome hit out at his French detractors on Thursday after two former riders questioned the legitimacy of his success.
Laurent Jalabert described Froome’s victory at the La Pierre-Saint-Martin summit finish on Tuesday as “uncomfortable to watch,” while Cedric Vasseur said the Briton’s bike “seemed to be pedaling itself.”
Both were professional cyclists during the sport’s darkest days of doping, the 1990s and the early part of the opening decade of this century.
Jalabert has never admitted to doping but a retroactive test in 2013 on a blood sample he gave in 2004 came up positive for the banned blood-booster EPO, according to L’Equipe newspaper.
He also rode for the tainted ONCE team during his career while Vasseur was once a teammate of Lance Armstrong on the U.S. Postal team.
Vasseur was, however, cleared of doping in an investigation into his team Cofidis in 2004.
“It’s quite rich coming from cyclists like Jalabert and Vasseur to be commenting on my racing in such a way,” fumed Froome. “It’s really disappointing because those are the guys a lot of people, a lot of fans and a lot of supporters, look up to as idols of their time, and there they are casting doubt on a current cyclist, a clean cyclist and a clean team.
“These guys are setting the tone for the public and the fans, and in my opinion that’s not correct.”
Froome added: “To be honest it’s journalists who’ve set the tone for the public.
“Of course I’m disappointed in some of the articles written, especially as I ride clean and my team rides clean.
“But only time will tell.”
Having crushed the opposition on Tuesday’s stage, Froome was on the defensive on Thursday, although none of his rivals ever really had him in trouble.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), and even Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) all tried at one time or another to attack Froome on the final climb to Plateau de Beille.
But first Richie Porte and then Geraint Thomas chased down the attacks before their Sky leader, Froome himself, took responsibility when Quintana had another go. But Froome insisted he was never in difficulty.
“I wouldn’t say there’s one that really stands out as being more of a threat than the others,” he said. “I’m just looking at GC and who’s closest to me. I’d have to say Quintana at this point, but his attacks aren’t extremely explosive.
“He can maintain a high pace over a long time, but when he goes he isn’t a really explosive rider, unlike Alberto Contador.
“When he’s on form, when he attacks it’s a really big acceleration. I haven’t seen that side of Alberto so far, maybe we’ll see that from him in the Alps.
“I’ve got to pay all my rivals the same amount of respect — Tejay [Van Garderen], Quintana, Alberto.
“Nibali’s lost quite a bit of time but all those guys siting around three or four minutes back, I’ve got to pay the same amount of respect. I wouldn’t let them get up the road or get a big gap on me.”