LA ROCHE-SUR-YON: Chris Froome expressed massive relief to be at the starting line of the 2018 Tour de France just days after being cleared by WADA and the UCI to take part.
Tour organisers ASO had decided to ban Froome from the race but the world anti-doping agency and the International Cycling Union delivered a long-awaited verdict on a September 2017 test of the Briton that cleared the 33-year-old’s name.
“Now I just want to draw a line in the sand and move on,” said the four-time champion, who won the Giro d’Italia in May.
“My aim is to win and go for a Tour-Giro double.
“Doing the Tour de France and the Vuelta (a Espana) last year taught me an amazing amount about how to manage my training and that sort of thing.
“But really I can’t make a prediction about how it’s going to go.”
The Kenyan-born rider said he had little to fear from the French public on a day when security measures to protect him were announced, after more than the allowed level of asthma medication Salbutamol was found in Froome’s urine during last year’s Vuelta.
“I just raced the Giro in May with the Salbutamol thing hanging over me and nothing happened there,” he said.
“My advice to anyone who doesn’t like Chris Froome or doesn’t like Sky is to come and watch the race with some other shirt, of someone you do like, and support the Tour in that way.”
“I can understand ASO’s position,” Froome told a packed press conference in a local sports hall that was used instead of the team hotel when around 150 journalists showed up.
“But things finally worked out and I’m free to race now.”
Froome’s team director Dave Brailsford said Sky was used to operating in a tense atmosphere and slammed the way the information about the rider’s test for Salbutamol was leaked.
“This is not the first time there has been this (negative) feeling (against the team),” Brailsford said when asked about reports in recent days suggesting Sky may be targeted.
“We knew Chris was innocent from the start and it was awful the way this information that should never have been released was leaked.
“It wasn’t even technically an ‘AAF’ (adverse analytical finding) and few people understood this subtle difference.”
When asked about the evidence that proved him to have done no wrongdoing, Froome added that “most of the information is already out there”.
Brailsford went on to praise Froome’s strength of character after being wrongly accused.
“Chris has shown great strength and integrity while also maintaining his form, he won the Giro under those conditions,” said Brailsford.