Following Chris Froome’s release of data from physiological tests carried out after the Tour de France in an attempt to silence those who doubt his probity, the cyclist has conceded that the move may well fail to silence his detractors.
“I am realistic and recognise that these results will not convince everyone,” he said in a statement on Friday. “The deceit of the past still casts its shadow over the present but my hope is that more transparency like this can be another small step in helping rebuild trust in the sport I love.”
The two-times Tour de France winner’s performances in independent laboratory tests were at the upper limits attainable for humans, scientists reported, although physiologists consulted by the Guardian said that conclusion is hardly a surprise, given that Froome takes part in the toughest endurance event in sport.
Froome’s weight loss over the years was also a factor in his success, with a 2007 test carried out on behalf of the World Cycling Centre at Aigle, Switzerland, showing him at 76.5kg compared to his 2015 Tour de France weight of 67kg. His power output remained essentially the same over those years, pointing to a rise in power-weight ratio as a key reason for his improvement.
“The results today hopefully tell their own story,” said Froome, who won this year’s Tour for Team Sky to add to his success in 2013. “The figures make one thing very clear to me – if I ever needed any reminder. Natural ability is only one piece of the puzzle of what it takes to win an event like the Tour de France.
“I have always prided myself on my work ethic, dedication and perseverance but without the opportunities and support from Team Sky and Team GB I would not be where I am today. Team Sky’s belief in my ability, structured coaching and attention to detail have given me the platform to maximise my potential. I am proud to ride for a team that has shown that you can win the biggest bike races in the world clean.”
For the Frenchman Antoine Vayer, who has been voicing his scepticism over Froome’s performances since the 2013 Tour win, the release of data did not change a great deal. “I haven’t looked at the detail but I have seen the essentials and there is a strong element of PR,” said Vayer, a former coach with the Festina team and the man behind July’s release of a video showing Froome’s climb of Mont Ventoux matched to his power data.
“It is complicated for me to believe that he is credible and the test he has done doesn’t tell me anything, doesn’t prove anything. This is a PR operation, a windbreak of transparency. It’s like you taste Coca-Cola, but it isn’t Coca-Cola.”
Asked what might induce him to change his mind, Vayer said it would be a change in the nature of Froome’s performances in the mountains.
In his interview with Esquire – where the data was published – Froome had earlier conceded: “Questions do need to be asked. As long as the questions are fair, I’m happy to answer them. What gets my back up is when those questions turn into straightforward accusations.
“I know what I’ve done to get here. I’m the only one who can really say 100% that I’m clean. I haven’t broken the rules. I haven’t cheated. I haven’t taken any secret substance that isn’t known of yet. I know my results will stand the test of time, that 10, 15 years down the line people won’t say: ‘Ah, so that was his secret.’ There isn’t a secret.”
The greatest name in cycling history, Eddy Merckx, joined the chorus of voices stating their belief that Froome faces an uphill task in proving his credibility among those who have already made up their minds and compared the abuse Froome has faced to the punches, spitting and poison-pen letters that came his way in his years of dominance, when the Belgian won the Tour de France five times in five starts.
Froome’s move followed a promise he made during the Tour de France to undergo independent testing and it forms part of an increasing trend towards openness over physiological data in the sport. One leading Tour contender, the Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, posts details of his performances through the Strava website, while the Dutchman Tom Dumoulin released extensive data following his surprise sixth place in this summer’s Tour of Spain.
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