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GC rivals like Nairo Quintana (Movistar) spoke out...

Tour rivals back Froome over doping suspicions

Nairo Quintana, Tejay van Garderen, and Alejandro Valverde all feel that the doping suspicions surrounding Froome are out of hand.

SISTERON, France (AFP) — Under-fire Tour de France leader Chris Froome is “clean” say his rivals, who added that the media witch-hunt against him is a “lynching.”

Froome, 30, has had to put up with speculation about his performances from certain sections of the media after producing a dominant victory on stage 10 a week ago. Sky responded on Tuesday’s rest day by publishing some power data from Froome on the final climb to La Pierre-Saint Martin in the hope of proving there was nothing unusual in it.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who sits second behind Froome in the overall standings, says the rivalry between Britain and France may be affecting certain people’s judgement.

“There are always good and bad comments; there are always fanatics in one way or another, rivalries between countries, for that reason you get certain comments,” said the 25-year-old Colombian. “For me, there’s been a little bit of lack of respect for the sportsmen, and if anyone should judge, it’s the testers.”

Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), third overall at three minutes, 32 seconds, insisted Froome is clean and is paying for other riders’ legacies.

“I think it’s pretty unfair for him; he’s definitely dealing with the aftermath of what other people have done before him,” said Van Garderen, 26, referring to the sordid past of drug cheats like Lance Armstrong.

“I think he’s a talented rider who definitely pays close attention to detail.”

Van Garderen finished 10th on the stage 10, 2:30 behind Froome, but unlike those who’ve cried foul over the Briton’s performance, the American did not find it remarkable. “I don’t think his ride on Saint-Martin [stage 10] was out of this world like some people said.

“If I look at the numbers that I did and the time he did, it’s clear he dealt with the heat and dealt with the rest day better than other people did.

“It’s not that he did a performance that was much different than we saw in the Dauphiné or anywhere else.

“It’s very unfair for him to have to deal with all the scrutiny.”

Van Garderen said it is an anachronism to think that riders cannot succeed at the Tour without doping.

“Certainly I ride clean, and I want to prove it’s possible to reach the podium of the Tour de France riding clean, but in the same way, I think Chris Froome’s clean,” he said.

Alejandro Valverde, fourth at 4:02, says there is no reason to suspect Froome as he as long been successful. However, he suggested the pressure may get to the Sky leader. “It’s not a surprise that he’s leading the Tour, he’s already won a lot in his career,” said Quintana’s Movistar teammate.

“It’s a lynching. He’s a great rider with a strong head, but I don’t know if he’s paying for all this pressure he’s enduring.”