Nairo Quintana stirs rivalry with Chris Froome ahead of Tour de France

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Nairo Quintana appeared to stir up his rivalry with Chris Froome ahead of the Tour de France after the defending champion was booed by French crowds on Thursday night.

Team Sky’s Froome got a hostile reception at the official team presentation in La Roche-sur-Yon but on Friday Quintana expressed only so much sympathy.

“It’s not pleasant, it is not good for our sport,” he said. “We hope that people will avoid doing it. But sometimes you reap what you sow.”

On Monday, Froome was cleared of wrongdoing in the salbutamol case which has hung over him since his victory in the Vuelta a Espana last September, becoming public by means of a leak in December.

However, the minds of many fans had long been made up about the four-time Tour winner, who goes into this year’s race holding all three Grand Tour jerseys and seeking to become the first man to do the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998.

Movistar’s Quintana, who finished second to Froome in the 2013 and 2015 Tours and was third in 2016, is chief among those trying to stop that happening.

Froome

However, he said it was good for the race that Froome will be taking part – with organiser ASO dropping its attempt to block him from starting once the UCI announced its decision on Monday.

“For us it is neither better nor worse,” he said. “We always do our race and preparation, and there will always be a rival to fight with. It’s better he is here and his situation has been resolved. Now we all move forward.”

Quintana is part of a three-pronged attack from Movistar, who also have Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa eyeing the General Classification title.

Landa was part of the Sky team that helped Froome win the title here 12 months ago before leaving in search of his own opportunities.

Asked about the booing of Froome, Landa said: “It’s sad, I would not like to be whistled. There is more and more rivalry and these extremes are reached. In this age of social networks people love you more and some people hate you more.”

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WADA used as yet unpublished studies before advising UCI to close Chris Froome case

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The World Anti-Doping Agency used as yet unpublished studies before advising the UCI to close the anti-doping investigation into Chris Froome, cycling’s world governing body has said.

The UCI on Friday published a detailed statement to further explain Monday’s announcement that four-time Tour de France winner Froome had been cleared of any anti-doping violation when a test undertaken at the Vuelta a Espana last September found excessive levels of the asthma drug Salbutamol.

In it, the UCI said it acted on the advice of WADA and without access to all of the same information.

“WADA’s scientific department has access to information that UCI does not, including ongoing and unpublished studies on the excretion of Salbutamol (which is – as confirmed by WADA Scientific Director – subject to considerable variations),” the statement said.

“In those circumstances, the UCI had to trust WADA’s assessment of whether or not Mr Froome’s control amounted to an anti-doping rule violation as per the rules adopted by WADA.

“Pursuing the case when the world supervising authority in anti-doping – which is the entity enacting the rules and the tests – tells you that there is no case is simply not an option.”

The UCI’s statement also said that a request from Froome to carry out further tests on his samples – to determine whether they might have been affected by other medicines he was taking, or by his diet during La Vuelta – was rejected.

“The purpose of such testing would have been to attempt to determine whether the factors mentioned directly above had an impact on Mr Froome’s excretion of Salbutamol,” the statement said.

“The UCI believed that such impact was purely speculative and could not justify conducting additional tests on Mr Froome’s samples.”

The closure of Froome’s case has not been enough to satisfy everyone, and on Thursday night he was booed and jeered by fans at the Tour’s team presentation in La Roche-sur-Yon.

There have been several demands for the full details of the evidence used in making the decision to be published.

However, the UCI said publishing that evidence was not an option.

“In its capacity as a signatory of the WADA code, the UCI can only say that there are important reasons that WADA does not publish information on its analytical methods and decision limits, the most important being to avoid such information being abused by athletes who wish to illegitimately enhance their performance,” the statement said.

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Adam Yates returns to the Tour de France as a contender after finishing fourth in 2016

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Adam Yates returns to the Tour de France as a contender after his experience two years ago but will still be racing as an ‘underdog’, according to Mitchelton-Scott sports director Matt White.

Yates rode the 2016 Tour as a 23-year-old simply seeking to gain experience, but the Bury rider started strong and kept it going all the way to Paris to finish fourth overall, taking the white jersey as the best young rider in the race.

With that under his belt, and after his twin brother Simon’s long spell in the leader’s pink jersey at the Giro d’Italia in May, nobody is overlooking Yates this time around but both he and his team insist they have not changed their approach.

“A couple of years ago it was a little bit different because it was my first time riding (for the general classification),” Yates said. “Now, two years later, I’ve got a lot more experience, I’ve raced the same guys all year, every year.

“You get a feel for them, a feel for yourself and you’re a bit more confident in where you are with your ability. Personally for me nothing really changes, you’re just a little bit more confident.”

If the plucky underdog tag worked last time around, White is keen to keep it attached two years on.

“I still think we are the underdogs,” the Australian said. “We’re not the favourites to win the Tour de France, that’s for sure. It’s still Chris (Froome), it’s still Tom (Dumoulin) and the guys that have won Grand Tours.

“But we’re definitely in the category where we’re coming to challenge. The mentality of the team hasn’t changed from last year or from two years ago.

“We have a clear goal. When you’ve never ridden the Tour de France for the GC, you’re 23, we didn’t come here with a clear goal (two years ago) until it was presented to us. Until you do it once, it’s just called potential.

“There are lots of people walking around with potential. Until you ride a Tour for GC you don’t know if those guys are capable of doing it. Once they’ve done it, you know and that’s the position we’re in now.”

Chris Froome will be going for a fourth Tour de France title in a row.

Chris Froome will be going for a fourth Tour de France title in a row.

The yellow jersey is likely to be won in the mountains in weeks two and three, but could be lost in a tough opening week, with much focus put on the cobblestone sections late on stage nine to Roubaix on July 15.

Most General Classification hopefuls are eyeing the stage warily, but Yates insisted it held no fear for him.

“I’ve reconned it three times, and to be honest I rode quite a few cobbles as an under-23 and junior,” he said. “It’s not new to me. Obviously it’s a bit different on a big stage, with more expert riders around.

“It’s more about positioning and the winds beforehand, that could be more of a problem. Once we’re actually on the cobbles I’m pretty confident.

“I’ve got a super-strong team around me. Everyone’s a big unit except (Mikel) Nieve and me so I’ve got a big team to lead me into the sectors. We’ll hope for good luck and we can get through clean.”

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