‘Clean’ Froome points finger at dirty generation

Tour de France leader Chris Froome fired a broadside at a cycling generation tainted by doping scandals as he insisted he is racing "100 percent" clean at the world's biggest and most notorious bike race.

'Clean' Froome points finger at dirty generation
Chris Froome digs deep. Photo: Pascal Guyot/AFP

Kenyan-born Briton Froome capped a stunning performance on the first day in the high mountains with a memorable victory on stage eight which handed him the race's fabled yellow jersey.

Teammate Richie Porte finished second at 51sec as several of Team Sky's rivals, including Spaniard Alberto Contador and Australia's Cadel Evans, spectacularly fell off the pace on the final climb to Ax-Trois-Domaines.

According to unconfirmed French television reports, it was the third-fastest time recorded for the 7.8km climb to the Pyrenean summit.

It also prompted comparisons with those of US Postal, the team led by disgraced American Lance Armstrong who has been stripped of all seven of his race victories after admitting to doping throughout his career.

Asked whether the world could believe his and Team Sky's performances were not being artificially enhanced, Froome replied: "Yes, 100 percent."

And he claimed today's peloton is racing far cleaner than those of "five to ten years ago".

"The sport is in a much better place now than it has been for the last 20 or 30 years," added Froome.

"Any of the results (in the sport) now, are definitely a lot more credible. The question should be asked about people who were winning races maybe five, ten years ago, when we know doping was a lot more prevalent."

After finishing runner-up to teammate Bradley Wiggins last year in a dominant campaign by Team Sky, Froome came to the 100th edition as the man to beat.

He has won several major races this season, while Contador has been mediocre.

Contador admitted prior to the Tour he was not on top form and hoped to race into his peak during the three-week epic.

The Spaniard, a two-time winner (2009, 2011) who was stripped of his 2010 title after a positive test for clenbuterol, was spectacularly left in Froome's wake on Saturday.

Used to leaving his own rivals in his wake during his peak years, the Spaniard struggled to match Sky's pace and came over the finish 1min 45sec in arrears to drop to 1:51 behind the Briton.

Evans was worse off, finishing 4:13 down to sit 23rd overall at 4:36The Australian admitted Sky's "really consistent" pace on the 15 km to the summit of the Pailheres mountain pass left him short for the ensuing 7.8 km trek to the finish.

"When you're in the running for GC (general classification), seven kilometres is not a climb that you would normally get dropped on, but on the last climb I had a few problems to get into the mix," said Evans, who recently finished third overall at the Giro d'Italia.

"I couldn't even push myself to my maximum and at that point, when you see 20 guys riding away from you, you know you're a long way off the pace."

Froome said it was "normal" for people to question impressive performances given the sordid history of the sport.

But he said his conscience was clear: "It's the unfortunate position we find ourselves in at the moment. Eyebrows are going to be raised, questions are going to be raised about our performances.

"But I know the sport has changed. There is absolutely no way that I would be able to get these results if it hadn't changed.

"For me, it is a bit of a personal mission to show that the sport has changed. I certainly know that the results I'm getting are not going to be stripped in 10, 20 years time.

"It's not going to happen."

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Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

MAP: Details of 2022 Tour de France (and Denmark) revealed

Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.