‘Ambush’ on French TV prompted Sky to release power numbers

David Brailsford says that France 2's televised "ambush" led Sky to release Froome's power numbers in order to set the record straight.

Photo: AFP

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SISTERON, France (VN) — Sky boss Dave Brailsford said he was “ambushed” in a live interview on French television two days ago, prompting his decision to reveal some of Chris Froome’s power data Tuesday.

In reaction to that broadcast, live on French TV following Sunday’s stage, coupled with increased scrutiny of Froome’s performances, Sky decided to reverse its long-held policy of not revealing power numbers, and on Tuesday offered up some of Froome’s power data from the climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin with the hopes of quieting some of the critics.

“What France 2 did, putting out that big headline, with data that was so wildly wrong on so many levels, we thought we should just give concrete facts,” Brailsford said. “That was what drove my decision on that one.”

On Sunday, Brailsford appeared on live television following stage 15 to Valence, and he was grilled about Froome’s performances so far through this Tour.

Pierre Sallet, a French expert in physiology, estimated that Froome hit a power output of 7.02 watts/kilogram en route to victory in the first mountain stage in the Pyrénées, strongly hinting that those numbers can only be attained through doping. On Tuesday, Sky trainer Tim Kerrison revealed what he said were Froome’s power numbers from the climb, estimating it was 5.78w/kg.

“I was not aware of it before going onto the show. It did take me a bit by surprise,” Brailsford said of his appearance on the post-stage show, “Stade 2.” “The facts were not correct. Some of the numbers they presented were wildly inaccurate. When you are broadcasting to an entire nation, you do have a bit of an obligation to get your facts right.”

Team Sky officials were upset with the broadcast not only because TV hosts caught Brailsford unawares, but also because it could inflame an already tense environment on the Tour.

The broadcast came at a sensitive time in this Tour, with yellow jersey Froome being yelled at, taunted, spat upon, and even suffering the indignity of having a cup on urine thrown on him.

“With great power, comes great responsibility,” Kerrison said of the influence of French television. “I do think people have responsibility to assure that the information they share is accurate. I would not tar everyone in the same brush. We have read balanced pieces on how to estimate [power numbers] compared to what we saw on French TV.”

Brailsford, who speaks fluent French, said he knew he was being set up as soon as the broadcast began. There was a long segment with Sallet, who made his case that his calculations on Froome’s numbers shot him above the 7.0w/kg threshold — what’s considered by many to be the limit of credible performance.

Brailsford also said French television made other errors, claiming Froome was never tested while training at altitude on Tenerife during his run-up to the Tour this year. While that might have been true in previous stays atop the Spanish volcano, Brailsford said Froome was tested 25 times this year while at altitude training camps, at the insistence of Froome, who last year questioned why the GC favorites were not being tested while training at altitude.

Brailsford also said he intentionally did not reveal Froome’s racing weight — a key factor in calculating power numbers — because he said that would only open the door for more ambush journalism, hinting a TV crew might show up a the finish line, and ask Froome to stand on a scale.

“It was an ambush,” Brailsford said. “It was not easy not to get angry, but I tried to remain as calm as possible.”

Froome said he also supported the idea of revealing his power numbers, though he admitted he doubts it will change the minds of all the doubters.

“I am not sure if the numbers will fix everything. I do feel as a team that we are trying to be open and as transparent as possible,” Froome said. “I’ve been asked more questions than any GC contender. I am focused on racing. I’ve worked too hard for this to throw me off of the racing. That’s all happening on the side.”

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