MIJAS, Spain (AFP) — Chris Froome’s return to the pro peloton didn’t ruffle any feathers Wednesday at Ruta del Sol, according to the four-time Tour de France champion.
“It was really touching to see other riders come up in person and offer their support,” said Froome after the stage.
Froome started the race under a cloud of uncertainty as his adverse analytical finding from the 2017 Vuelta a Espana remains unresolved.
“This is the first time since all this happened [the Salubutamol case] that I have seen the guys. It was great to catch up and amazing to see the support,” he said.
Froome, who won the Spanish early season race on his last appearance in 2015, finished in the peloton in the 197.6km first stage from the Mediterranean coast to Granada. The stage was won by Frenchman Thomas Boudat, a former omnium world champion on the track.
Team Sky’s captain is allowed to continue racing because Salbutamol, the substance that showed up in the test, is an anti-asthma drug which can be taken legally within specified parameters. So, he was not automatically banned by the UCI after the test results were confirmed.
The UCI has asked Froome to explain why twice the allowed limit showed up in his sample.
“We are working as hard as we can to try to get this resolved. No one wants this resolved more fast than I do,” added the 32-year-old Briton. “It’s been a difficult period now. These are not normal circumstances.”
Some riders and even UCI chief David Lappartient were calling for Froome to hold off on racing until the case is resolved. These reactions suggested that Froome’s presence at the Ruta del Sol could provoke some resentment in the peloton.
But Froome said: “The support has been amazing and that goes for other riders as well, the support I’ve received from the peloton has just been incredible.”
Froome went on to reiterate a position that he and Team Sky principal David Brailsford have been stating in the lead-up to the race, that the process should not have been made public.
“Obviously this was meant to have been a confidential process, which has been made public,” Froome said, “But we are doing our best to get this resolved now and I’m keeping my head down, I’ve been staying focused on my training and getting ready for the season ahead.”