Tour de France 2020

Yellow jersey sees red over media’s doubts about his performance

Chris Froome says commentators airing their doubts about whether he's riding clean are fueling bad behavior among fans at roadside

VALENCE, France (AFP) — Tour de France leader Chris Froome on Sunday accused journalists of failing to keep up with the times, saying cycling had moved on from the “wild West” era when Lance Armstrong raced.

The 30-year-old Team Sky captain, who faced more doping-related questions after the stage, pointed the finger at some in the media after being doused with urine during Saturday’s 14th stage.

It was the latest in a succession of incidents in which he and his teammates, particularly Richie Porte, have been targeted by disgruntled fans accusing them of racing unfairly. And when Froome was asked if he could understand similarities being drawn between himself and the shamed Armstrong, he was indignant.

“If people are led to believe these performances are not legitimate, that’s what’s going to push them to start booing, punching, spitting or throwing urine on riders, that’s my point,” he said, before rounding on French television commentators Laurent Jalabert and Cedric Vasseur.

Both had cast scorn on Froome’s dominant win in Tuesday’s stage-10 summit finish, with Jalabert saying it made him “feel uneasy” while Vasseur remarked that he thought the Briton’s bike was “riding itself.”

Froome pointed out that their professional racing careers coincided with cycling’s darkest doping years, when Armstrong won seven Tour titles only to be later stripped of them for cheating.

Jalabert was found by retroactive testing in 2013 to have used the banned blood-booster EPO, while Vasseur once raced for Armstrong’s U.S. Postal Service team.

“Times have changed, everyone knows that,” said Froome. “This isn’t the wild West. That was 10-15 years ago.

“Of course there are still going to be riders who take risks (by doping) in this day and age, but they are the minority. It was the other way around 10-15 years ago. There’s no reason in this day and age for that type of suspicion to continue.

“I was aware that Richie’s been punched and spat at, Luke Rowe was spat at, I obviously had urine thrown at me. That’s already an outrage, it’s unacceptable.”

Froome has long spoken out against doping and even called for authorities to conduct more out-of-competition testing. And he said he’s at a loss as to what else he can do to remove the suspicion surrounding him.

“I don’t see what else I can do other than speak up about it and let people make up their own minds about our performances and not look up to ex-riders who are part of this (doping) generation and only knew one way of cycling,” he said.

“As I said yesterday (Saturday), it was particular individuals. I’m not saying the media in general, there’s been some fantastic coverage from media of the racing, as it should be.

“But specific individuals who have very large audiences, especially on television in commentary, those individuals are ruining it for the other people.”

Froome’s stern words came hours after race director Christian Prudhomme, a former TV commentator, had also taken a swipe at some of the media coverage.

“There’s obviously a correlation between what is said in newspapers, on the television and radio and what happens along the route,” Prudhomme said. “Of course, and it’s a former journalist speaking here, what we write or what we say has an influence on the weakest-minded, which can then lead to unacceptable behavior.”