Froome has faced almost daily questioning on the matter since taking the yellow jersey almost two weeks ago with victory on stage eight in Ax 3 Domaines, and he started yesterday’s stage 18 to Alpe d’Huez hours after L’Equipe had published an analysis of data Sky had released to them to make their case.
Although Brailsford has long maintained he would not make the team’s power data — numbers which show riders’ output on the bike — public, he did allow L’Equipe access to results from 18 climbs tackled by Froome since the 2011 Vuelta a Espana, as well as various other pieces of biological information.
L’Equipe did not publish the information as per their agreement with Sky, but they had it analysed by biomechanics expert Fred Grappe, who is on the Tour with the FDJ team, and he told the newspaper the data was consistent with that of a “clean” rider.
“His performances are coherent,” read their headline.
Brailsford later said the decision to give L’Equipe that access had been part of a proactive response to the questioning.
“We have been in contact with WADA and UKAD (The UK Anti-Doping agency) and things are progressing,” he said. “I don’t know what the process is because we have never done this before but we are trying to react to a situation, trying to think creatively about a situation.
“Nobody asked me to do this. I suggested it would be a good idea to contact them, they didn’t contact me.
“I have gone to them and said ‘Actually guys, we would like to give you everything that we’ve got. How do you feel about that?”’
Froome (pictured) said the decision to open the books had been the team’s rather than his own, but he was happy with the results. “I’m really happy to hear the findings and to hear them basically backing us up, saying these performances are very good, strong, clean sporting performances,” he said.
“It backs up what we’ve been saying all along.”
Although the questioning of Froome has abated in the past couple of days, there are still reminders of why Sky feel the need to act. Yesterday’s edition of French newspaper Liberation carried the headline ‘The Tour of Doubt’ above Froome’s picture.
Froome at least looked a little more human on the second climb of the Alpe d’Huez yesterday, however. He weathered a 20-second penalty for an illegal feed as he increased his overall lead in the 100th Tour after a dramatic double ascent of the Alpe d’Huez.
As Christophe Riblon raced to victory ahead to become France’s first stage winner this year, Froome showed signs of distress when he waved for help just after the five kilometre post.
By then he had passed the final point at which riders may legally accept food from their teams, just a kilometre earlier. Richie Porte dropped back to the team car to get an energy bar for the yellow jersey holder, but what looked to be an attempt to circumvent the rules and Porte take the hit backfired as both riders were penalised. Nevertheless, Froome still increased his lead over closest rival Alberto Contador to five minutes 11 seconds after finishing in seventh place, almost a minute ahead of the Spaniard.
On a day when more Irish fans flocked to the Irish corner on Alpe d’Huez, Ireland’s Dan Martin finished the stage in 76th place, 25 minutes 10 seconds down on Riblon, leaving him in 19th overall on GC, more than 34 minutes behind Froome.
“Thanks for all the support. 1 of my worst days ever and couldn’t stop smiling. Legendary @IrishCorner10 Best TDF memory. #worldsbestfans,” Martin tweeted afterwards.
Nicolas Roche was involved in an early break in a bid to help his team leader Contador but he eventually paid for those early efforts and finished 30 minutes behind the stage winner. Roche lies 42nd overall, 1 hour 13 minutes and 50 seconds behind the yellow jersey.