Chris Froome hits out at 'uneducated fans' and 'Twitter trolls' after spectacular Giro d'Italia triumph
New Giro d’Italia champion Chris Froome has hit out at “Twitter trolls” and “uneducated” fans, insisting those questioning his spectacular win in last Friday’s queen stage of the Giro d’Italia have not done their homework.
Froome added that he had gone “above and beyond” in his efforts to convince fans that he rode clean, but that he would not let them affect his decision-making.
The British rider, 33, made history on Sunday afternoon when, in a glittering closing ceremony held a stone’s throw from the Colosseum in Rome, he was crowned the winner of this year’s coveted maglia rosa.
Never before has a British rider won Italy’s grand tour, and certainly not as the reigning champion of both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana, cycling’s two other major stage races.
Only Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault, the two most successful grand tour riders in history, have previously managed to hold all three titles simultaneously and Froome described it as “immense” to be mentioned in the same breath as them. “There is no bigger goal for a pro cyclist than to go for all three grand tours consecutively,” he said. “When I thought about going for it, it was a big undertaking. I am not regretting it now.”
Froome added that he felt he was beginning to earn his place in the pantheon of greats. “I have done everything I can to enlighten races,” he said. “I have attacked on descents, in cross-winds, [from] 80km… I have come back from four-minute deficits. It feels as if I am ticking those boxes.”
Froome’s Giro win was controversial, however, with the 33 year-old still in the process of trying to clear his name after returning an adverse analytical finding for the asthma drug salbutamol at last year’s Vuelta a Espana. It is unclear whether a verdict in that case will be handed down before July’s Tour de France, when Froome is planning to try for his fourth consecutive title. If it is, he could yet be stripped of his Vuelta crown and handed a suspension.
Either way, though, Froome’s decision to ride the Giro was contentious, with many in the sport – including David Lappartient, the president of cycling’s world governing body the UCI – of the opinion that Froome should have stepped back from racing pending an outcome.
Froome, however, insists that he broke no rules, and repeated his conviction that he would be fully exonerated. “I am absolutely certain that when people have the same information as I have, they will understand why I made the decision to continue racing and riding the way I have been,” he said.
Froome expressed exasperation at the way in which his solo victory on stage 19 last Friday had been questioned in some quarters. Team Sky’s four-time Tour champion launched his attack – the decisive move of the entire race – on the Colle delle Finestre, 80km from the finish in Bardonecchia.
He held on to claim one of the most sensational stage wins in recent memory, by three minutes, jumping from fourth to first overall as previous maglia rosa Simon Yates lost nearly 40 minutes. Froome revealed that he had spoken with Yates, and was impressed by how the 25 year-old Bury rider had taken the crushing disappointment. "I really feel for Simon,” Froome said. “The first thing he said to me is that it is a three-week race - not a two-and-a-half week race. That is brutal but it is [true].”
Asked whether at any point he had wondered about the wisdom of launching such a bold attack, given the heat on him and the fact that it was likely to act as a lightning rod to sceptics, Froome replied: “'I don't ride according to what Twitter trolls are going to write about. That has no bearing whatsoever on how I ride my bike.”
He added: “I find it interesting people are very quick to jump to conclusions, when actually if you break down what [that ride] looks like, I made up more time on the descent than on the climbs or the flats. They [the chase group] were actually closing on me on the climbs. How can people say that I was going too fast on the climbs? It is actually uneducated, isn't it? They have just gone on emotion.”
Froome said he was happy to note that George Bennett, LottoNL-Jumbo’s Kiwi rider, had “clarified” comments comparing his ride with Floyd Landis’ infamous Tour-winning stage victory in Morzine in 2006. “I have an absolutely clear conscience and I have no doubt this result will stand the test of time,” said Froome, adding that he felt he had gone “above and beyond” in his efforts to prove his innocence. “I have shared more info than other riders. I have been more open than any of my rivals in that regard. I have shared way more data.”
Froome said he now planned to spend a few days at home in Monaco, with son Kellan and wife Michelle, who is seven months pregnant with their second child, before beginning his preparations for the Tour.
“The baby is due at the end of the Tour - hopefully just after,” he said, smiling. “It's a special time. I will be home for a few days to recover, before it all kicks off again. I will do some kind of race and definitely a few weeks at altitude.”