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froome brews up a storm in pyrenees

Chris Froome fended off attacks on and off the bike in maintaining his commanding Tour de France lead on yesterday's stormy final Pyrenean stage.

The 30-year-old's Team Sky squad, with Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas to the fore, successfully nullified attempted attacks by Alberto Contador, Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana on the 195-kilometres 12th stage from Lannemezan to Plateau de Beille.

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) won as Froome finished 10th alongside the main protagonists, protecting his advantage of two minutes 52 seconds from Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) on a stage which finished in torrential rain.

Froome has been subjected to innuendo and disparaging remarks following his dominant display on Tuesday's win at La Pierre-Saint-Martin and rounded on his critics yesterday.

Among those pondering the legitimacy of Froome's performances - and he insists he is racing clean - are French commentators Laurent Jalabert and Cedric Vasseur, two former riders who both have their own historical questions to answer from an era where doping was rife.

"It's quite rich coming from cyclists like Jalabert and Vasseur to be commenting on my racing in such a way. I think it's really disappointing," the 2013 champion said.

"Those are the guys that a lot of people look up to. And here they are casting doubt on current cycling and a clean cyclist and a clean team.

"These guys are setting the tone for the public, for the fans. And in my opinion that is not correct."

There have been suggestions Team Sky are using controversial, but legal, ketones, which are said to have benefits for endurance athletes, such as by preserving energy stores and muscle while burning fat.

Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford on Tuesday insisted the British squad did not use ketones - and Froome had to look up what it was after facing scrutiny in the Belgian media.

Froome added: "There had been a lot of talk about Team Sky and myself specifically using some kind of ketone drink or something, which is crazy.

"I had to Google it to find out what it was. One hundred per cent the team does not use ketones."

The latest interrogation followed a day which began in 35C heat and finished in a heavy rain, with thunder clapping overhead.

Rodriguez broke out of a 22-rider escape group to solo to his second win of the race, following his triumph on stage three to Mur de Huy.

Froome crossed six minutes 47 seconds behind and relieved after his rivals in turn tried to test him on the brutal 15.8km finishing ascent.