CERVINIA, Italy (VN) — Chris Froome (Sky) said don’t compare him to some of the most notorious dopers of cycling’s dirty past.
On the eve of winning the 2018 Giro d’Italia, Froome defended his race-changing attack Friday that all but clinched the pink jersey. The Sky captain downplayed comparisons to such solo attacks from confessed dopers Floyd Landis and Michael Rasmussen.
Many were quick to compare it to Landis’s notorious attack on the road to Morzine during the 2006 Tour de France that later saw the American disqualified for cheating.
“I have every confidence it will stand,” Froome said when asked if his results were legitimate. “I can fully understand the parallels of comparisons being drawn by some people … my conscience is clear.”
Froome’s dramatic attack Friday and come-from-behind victory at the Giro d’Italia has turned the sport on its head.
No one’s seen a long-distance solo attack like Froome’s 80km move in more than a decade.
Froome won the stage and gained 3:23 to principal rival Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb) after overnight leader Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) plummeted out of contention. The advantage helped seal Froome’s 46-second leading margin he’ll carry to Rome on Sunday.
Froome was quick to defend his performance Friday by pointing out that much of his gains in his daring long-distance attack were won on the descents.
“I made up I think more time on the Dumoulin group on the descents than I did pushing on the climbs or anything to do with numbers,” Froome said. “It’s an interesting statistic.”
Is Froome correct? Here’s a breakdown of Froome’s attack Friday:
Midway up the Colle della Finestra, Yates was already dropped and Froome jumped to gap Dumoulin and others. At the Finestre summit, Froome had carved up a gap of 41 seconds.
Froome flew down the dizzying 17km descent to Pragelato, hitting speeds as high as 85kph. Dumoulin was joined by Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana), Richard Carapaz (Movistar), Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ). At the bottom, Froome added 1:03 to his lead that had grown to 1:44.
Froome piled it on during the 11km climb to the Sestriere summit, adding 60 more seconds, expanding his gap to about 2:45.
On the long descent to the valley floor before heading up toward Bardonecchia, Froome once again was faster alone than the five chasers, widening his gap by another 40 seconds. At about 35km, Froome rode into the “virtual” leader’s jersey and he pushed through a headwind to the base of the final climb with of a margin of about 3:25.
On the final climb, Dumoulin was about 10 seconds faster than Froome, but the Sky rider gained that much back in the winner’s bonus.
It’s hard to have the exact time splits, but it appears that Froome did roughly take as much time on the descents as he did on the flats and on the climbs.
Froome took about 41 seconds on the Finestre climb and another 60 seconds on the Sestriere climb. He took about 63 seconds on the Finestre descent and about 40 seconds after coming over Sestriere.
The numbers wash out, but Froome is correct to say that the descents Friday were just as important as the climbs.
Froome’s descending skills are among the best in the peloton and it’s often faster to descend alone than in a small chase group.
Dumoulin also confirmed the group slowed twice on the Finestre descent to allow FDJ’s Sebastian Reichenbach to gain contact so he could later help to pull on the flats.
Once on the flats, Froome motored along, often dropping into a time trial position, to make the most of the rolling terrain and wider roads. He said he roughly produced 350w per hour for the final three hours of the stage.
The Dumoulin group, meanwhile, was not working well together on the flats. Reichenbach did not prove to be much help and Lopez and Carapaz were sitting in to save their legs to attack each in a battle over the white jersey.
On Saturday, Dumoulin sat up and rolled in dejected after a string of late-stage attacks failed to dislodge Froome, ceding six more seconds.
“If I am completely honest, I didn’t think that yesterday I’d be in this position right now,” Froome said after securing pink Saturday. “When I attacked, I thought if I am really lucky, I’ll stay away and get the stage win. I didn’t imagine that I’d do it enough to take the maglia rosa. It’s an incredible surprise.”
Questions about Froome’s lingering salbutamol case weighed heavily on the Giro since it began in Jerusalem. A journalist pointed out that 50-percent of readers in a newspaper poll doubted his performance. Froome, who is facing a possible ban for high levels of an asthma treatment, said he’s aware of the growing clamor about his still-unresolved salbutamol case.
“That’s something we are dealing with,” Froome said. “I certainly have got a clear conscious. And like I’ve said, once the time is right, we will share the information with everyone, and I am sure they will see it from our point of view.”
Froome flew to Rome with the rest of the Giro peloton Saturday evening for what will be a technical sprint to close out the race.
“It feels as if this has been the battle of my career,” Froome said. “There have been so many hurdles to overcame in this race.”