SISTERON, France (AP) — The team of Tour de France leader Chris Froome bowed to pressure Tuesday and released data about his riding power, heart rate and pedaling rhythm, hoping to quell speculation about doping ahead of an increasingly likely victory in Paris.
On the Tour’s second rest day, Team Sky presented the figures after comments on French TV raised questions about Froome’s performance and incidents in which spectators have booed, spat upon and thrown urine on the rider and his teammates — behavior attributed in part to the unfounded speculation about his speed on the way to victory in Stage 10.
With a 3 minute, 10 second lead on his closest rival, and his mountain-climbing nearly unparalleled, Froome said he’s in “a great place” as the three-week race resumes Wednesday with Stage 17’s 161-kilometer (100-mile) jaunt over four climbs from Digne-les-Bains to an uphill finish at Pra Loup mountain resort.
It’s the start of four grueling days in the Alps. The climax comes Saturday with an uphill finish at Alpe d’Huez, a day before a largely ceremonial ride for the race winner on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
“The third week of the Tour is always unpredictable. You never know how anyone is going to respond,” said American rider Tejay van Garderen, the BMC team leader who is third overall, 3:32 behind of Froome.
Van Garderen said the British race leader, who won the Tour in 2013 and has never tested positive for doping, has had to deal with “the aftermath” of doping cheats of the past.
“It was clear that he dealt with the heat and dealt with the (first) rest day better than other people did,” Van Garderen said of Froome’s Stage 10 victory. “I think it’s very unfair for him to have to deal with all the scrutiny.”
Froome, a Kenya-born Briton, said his team wants to address doubts about Sky’s performances with the release of his rider data.
“I’m not sure if numbers are going to fix everything, but certainly I feel as a team and myself, we’re definitely trying to be as open and transparent as possible,” he said.
Sky performance analyst Tim Kerrison presented figures including Froome’s power output, cadence and heart rate on the climb to the Stage 10 finish. The figures showed the rider’s ability to generate vast amounts of power, hitting a top speed of 27.7 kph going uphill.
Kerrison said Froome produced 414 watts and a pedal cadence of 97 revolutions per minute on average on the climb. Froome’s heart rate hit 174 beats per minute the highest rate that the team has tallied from him in any recent Grand Tour race and Kerrison called that a sign that Froome had arrived “very fresh” at the foot of that ascent.
Last week, France-2 ran a report quoting a doctor, Pierre Sallet, who it said works with statisticians for race organizer ASO, analyzing Tour riders’ performances. ASO says that is only partly true: It says Sallet’s team does give them data about the race itself, providing such details as where riders are on the road in relation to each other. But ASO says Sallet doesn’t analyze rider’s physiological data.
In the TV report, Sallet cited what he called “a reliable mathematical model” for his calculation that Froome had a maximum aerobic power of 500 watts on the climb, and could generate 7.04 watts per kilogram of body weight. By his count, Kerrison said Froome had produced 5.78 watts per kilogram on average on the climb.
“All athletes we’ve seen above 7 watts per kilo in the past were athletes who were caught in doping affairs,” said Sallet, adding that Froome “must give us information about his physiological profile for his performance to become credible.”
Sky’s Kerrison said the “margin of error” was too great to allow for an accurate assessment of Froome’s physiological profile from the Stage 10 climb results alone.
The TV report interspersed images of some former riders like Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour titles for doping.
“In particular what France-2 did, putting out that big headline ‘7 watts per kilo’, a picture of Lance Armstrong, a picture of (Jan) Ullrich,” Sky team manager Dave Brailsford said, “that was so wildly wrong on so many levels, that actually we just thought, ‘We should just correct that, and give the concrete facts, and give the evidence, so hopefully that people can judge for themselves.’”