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TOUR DE FRANCE

Froome set for Tour de France start after being cleared over ‘anti-doping’ case

Chris Froome was cleared Monday of wrongdoing in his 'anti-doping' case which had cast a shadow over his participation in the Tour de France.

Froome set for Tour de France start after being cleared over 'anti-doping' case
Photo:AFP

“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) confirms that the anti-doping proceedings involving Mr Christopher Froome have now been closed,” cycling's ruling body announced.

Team Sky's four-time Tour de France champion has been under a cloud since he was found to have twice the permissible amount of asthma drug Salbutamol in his system during September's Vuelta a Espana, which he won.

Tour de France organisers on Sunday banned Froome from taking part to protect the integrity of the world's best-known cycling race.

Sky immediately appealed to the French Olympic Committee, who will meet on Tuesday with a representative of either side and will deliver a binding verdict on Froome's participation on Wednesday.

The decision will be made by three judges, who will not rule on whether Froome is guilty of doping, but rather whether or not him taking part would damage the Tour de France's image.

ASO and Sky are now refusing to comment further and are unlikely to do so before the hearing.

Despite his adverse test for salbutamol, Froome rode and won the Giro d'Italia in May.

There was a sense of anger in cycling circles at the way Sky failed to tell ASO of the adverse finding, and the organiser has reached into its statutes to let Froome know he is unwelcome in their event, even if they lose on appeal, as it has done before.

ASO's article 28 says it “reserves the right to refuse participation in — or to exclude from — the event, a team or any of its members whose presence would be such as to damage the image or reputation of ASO or the event”.

It first took such measures in 1999 with Richard Virenque and the TVM team over the Festina doping affair, but they were cleared to take part by the International Cycling Union (UCI).   

A blood doping scandal broke before the 2006 Tour with Spain's Operation Puerto, which led to ASO shutting the door on the Astana team, but they were cleared at the last minute by the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport. In the end, Astana did not take part because five of their team were implicated in doping individually.

In 2009, Belgian rider Tom Boonen, a major name in the sport, was excluded having tested positive for cocaine, which ASO said was harmful to their image — the same argument it is using with Froome. However a French court cleared the Quick Step rider 24 hours before the opening day time-trial.

Records beckon

Should Froome take part he will be hot favourite to win the race as, at 33, he remains the best three-week tour rider on the contemporary cycling scene.

Froome would thereby join four other men to have won the Tour de France five times — Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel 
Indurain.

He would also be the first man for 20 years to win a Giro-Tour double and he would also have four consecutive Grand Tours to his name.

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SPORT

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.

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