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Tour de France

The Tour de France (French pronunciation: [tuʁ də fʁɑ̃s]) is an annual bicycle race held in France and nearby countries. First staged in 1903, the race covers more than 3,600 kilometres (2,200 mi) and lasts three weeks. As the best known and most prestigious of cycling's three "Grand Tours", the Tour de France attracts riders and teams from around the world. The race is broken into day-long segments, called stages. Individual times to finish each stage are aggregated to determine the overall winner at the end of the race. The rider with the lowest aggregate time at the end of each day wears the leader's yellow jersey on the next day of racing. The course changes every year, but the race has always finished in Paris. Since 1975, the climax of the final stage has been along the Champs-Élysées

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Tour leader Froome fights to lift shadow of Armstrong

Champion-in-waiting rejects doping suspicions after his stunning win on Mont Ventoux, despite comparisons with the disgraced Lance Armstong

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 July, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 July, 2013, 4:50am
 

Tour de France leader Chris Froome has hit out at critics who believe he could be following in the footsteps of shamed drugs cheat Lance Armstrong after his stunning win on Mont Ventoux.

"To compare me with Lance... Lance cheated, I'm not cheating. End of story," the British rider said on the race's second and final rest day yesterday.

Froome reinforced his grip on the race leader's yellow jersey, with an impressive win on the fabled climb on Sunday to claim his second mountaintop stage victory of this year's 100th edition.

But the Kenyan-born Briton's performance, which featured several short but remarkable attacks on the 20.8-kilometre climb to the summit, raised suspicions - and prompted comparisons with Armstrong, who saw his record seven Tour titles removed for doping.

Froome, who now leads Dutchman Bauke Mollema by four minutes and 14 seconds and former two-time winner Alberto Contador of Spain by 4:25, has claimed since the start of the race that he is "100 per cent clean".

The 28-year-old reiterated those claims yesterday, but indicated he has had enough of being made to feel he is a cheat.

"I just think it's quite sad that we're sitting here the day after the biggest victory of my life talking about doping," Froome said.

"Quite frankly ... my teammates and I have spent months away from home, slept [at high altitude] on volcanoes to get ready for this race ... training together, just working our a***s off.

"And here I am, sitting here being accused of being a cheat and a liar. That's just not cool."

To compare me with Lance... Lance cheated, I'm not cheating. End of story ... I am sitting here being accused of being a cheat and a liar. That's just not cool
Tour de France leader Chris Froome

Froome finished runner-up in the race last year when Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins, absent this time around after illness and injury, became the first Briton to win the world's biggest bike race.

But since then, cycling's long and sordid history with doping has taken a significant turn, following Armstrong's confession, after years of denial, that he cheated his way to glory.

Froome's accelerations on Mont Ventoux on Sunday caused a flurry of accusations and counter-accusations. Frenchman Antoine Vayer, a former coach of the disgraced Festina cycling team, has been an outspoken critic of Sky and Froome on Twitter, and regularly posts messages questioning the authenticity of the British outfit.

His counterpart, coach and sports scientist Frederic Grappe, meanwhile, regularly analyses the performances of top cyclists taking into account several key parameters including VO2 max - the maximum amount of oxygen the body can consume while competing at the very top level.

In an article yesterday, Grappe concluded: "Intellectually speaking, it would be wide of the mark to attribute the performances [of Froome] to doping."

Sky team chief Dave Brailsford said he believed that making his riders' power data public, as some critics have suggested should happen, would still not be enough to convince detractors.

"The latest craze is analysing power data to try and prove beyond reasonable doubt we are not doping. People seem to think releasing that data will provide the proof. I'm not so sure," said Brailsford.

"Biological passports are not just about [analysing] blood. It should be the whole picture of that individual. We would encourage maybe Wada [the World Anti-Doping Agency] to come and live with us, see all of our data, have access to every training file, compare them to blood data, weight, all that info they could capture on regular basis."

Froome said there was little else he could do to prove he was not cheating.

"I can only be open. I know within myself I've trained very hard to get here," he added.

"It's been a long battle to get where I am now. I've had the support of a fantastic team. I can't talk about anything outside that. I know what I've done to get here."

The race resumes today with the 16th stage over hilly terrain from Vaison-La-Romaine to a downhill finish in Gap.

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