L’ALPE D’HUEZ, France (Reuters) - Chris Froome, whose Tour de France performances have been greeted by suspicion from some quarters, received the welcome backing of French stage winner Christophe Riblon on Thursday.
Riblon, whose AG2R La Mondiale team are part of the Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), told a news conference the British Tour leader should not be “put on trial”.
Froome hammered the field in the first two mountain-top finishes of the Tour, in Ax-3-Domaines and the Mont Ventoux, and his performances have been put under the microscope by media and experts.
“I don’t understand that the yellow jersey is being put on trial,” Riblon said in a passionate outburst after winning the 18th stage at l’Alpe d’Huez.
“He does not deserve this. When you hurt the yellow jersey, you hurt cycling.”
Asked if he was proud that a rider from a MPCC team prevailed in the toughest Tour stage so far, Riblon said: “I had an MPCC test (to check his cortisone level) this morning, I will be tested now and they can come back tonight, no problem.”
One reporter pointed out that Froome’s Team Sky was not a member of the MPCC and in response, the 32-year-old said: “It’s their choice. It’s not an obligation.
“Instead of disparaging them, we should be looking into why they’re better. They work a lot, they have new (training) methods,” added Riblon.
Member teams of the MPCC apply stricter anti-doping rules than the World Anti-Doping Agency’s, with additional tests and automatic suspensions in the case of repeated doping offences.
AG2R-La Mondiale suspended themselves for a week last month and missed out on the Criterium du Dauphine after their rider Sylvain Georges failed a test for a banned substance - their second doping affair within 12 months.
Team Sky maintain they have a zero-tolerance policy on doping, and lost some staff after asking riders and support staff to sign up to a written statement saying they had no past or present involvement with drugs.
On Monday, team principal Dave Brailsford said he would be happy to share training data with WADA.
Sky, however, handed Froome’s power data since the 2011 Vuelta to sports daily L’Equipe and it was analyzed by biomechanics expert Frederic Grappe, who works with team FDJ.fr.
Grappe concluded Froome’s performances were outstanding but not suspicious.
“It is the team who took that decision. I’m happy to hear their findings and their take on it,” Froome told a news conference.
“These performances are very good, they’re strong, clean sporting performances.”
Editing By Alison Wildey