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Sky staff focused on Ruta del Sol, not Froome case: ‘We just crack on’

Team Sky focuses on bike racing at Ruta del Sol, despite the controversy surrounding Froome's pending Salbutamol case.

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FUENGIROLA, Spain (VN) — Business as usual — at least that’s what everyone inside the Team Sky bus is hoping for as Chris Froome makes his season debut Wednesday under a cloud of controversy.

Froome lines up at the Ruta del Sol in his first start since his Salbutamol case made headlines in December. TV and print journalists from across Europe converged in this summer beach resort to see what Froome has to say.

Despite the growing hoopla as the four-time Tour de France champion fights to clear his name of a possible ban, Team Sky staffers and riders are intent on focusing on their jobs.

“We’ll just crack on with the race, and we’ll just deal with what happens in the future,” said Sky sport director Brett Lancaster. “There’s nothing else we can do. We just get on with the job.”

All eyes are sure to be on Froome when he steps out of the Team Sky on Wednesday morning Cala de Mijas for the first stage of the five-day race across Spain’s rugged Andalusia region.

Froome was scheduled to arrive in Spain on Tuesday afternoon, after returning to Europe this week from South Africa where he’s been training for several weeks.

It’s also going to be the first time that Froome is reunited with his Team Sky teammates and staffers since a December training camp on Mallorca. That camp coincided with the leak that revealed Froome had tested for double the allowed limit of the asthma medication en route to winning last year’s Vuelta a España.

Although the WADA code allows cases like this for “specified” products to be handled confidentially, a media leak changed all that. According to reports in La Gazzetta dello Sport, arbitrators could be nearing a final review of the case. That could mean the issue could be resolved in a question of weeks, not months (assuming there are no appeals).

Many in and out of the peloton have suggested that it would be better for Froome to wait on the sidelines until his case is concluded. Rules allow Froome to compete, and despite facing a possible ban and disqualification of the Vuelta, Froome wanted to race with an eye on starting the Giro d’Italia in May. A start at Tirreno-Adriatico in March is likely his next race.

Regardless of the uncertainty, Sky staffers said the only they can do is focus on their job as lawyers and officials hash out the case.

“You do think about it, to be honest. You can’t change what’s going to happen,” Lancaster said. “That is the business of the courts, and we just crack on with the race.”

Other Sky riders arrived in sunny southern Spain for five days of intense early season racing. The race features the first major climbs of the European racing season, including a summit finale in stage 2 at Alto de las Allanadas where Froome beat Alberto Contador in 2015 to pave the way for overall victory. A final-day individual time trial tilts the race even more in favor of Froome.

Sky brings a deep team, with Wout Poels as GC backup and support riders such as Phil Deignan, Christian Knees, Dylan Van Baarle, David de la Cruz, and Salvatore Puccio.

“We have a really strong team. We are really looking forward to this race,” Van Baarle said. “I think [Froome] is in good shape. We’ll see in the race how he is, but I think we’ll be fine.”

Despite the commotion surrounding Froome’s Salbutamol case, Lancaster said the team is ready to race.

“He might have a bit of a stress, but he hasn’t shown that to me personally,” Lancaster said of Froome. “Chris is an animal. He’ll come here to win. He’s a racer. He’ll be champing at the bit, and he’ll be ready to go.”