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Froome to launch season at Ruta Del Sol despite doping investigation

Chris Froome. Photo: AP
Chris Froome. Photo: AP

Matt Slater

Chris Froome's first race since he was plunged into a doping crisis will be the five-day Ruta Del Sol, which starts in the Spanish town of Mijas on February 14.

Although Froome strongly denies any wrongdoing, the 32-year-old returned a urine sample during September's Vuelta a Espana containing twice the permitted amount of the asthma drug salbutamol.

Froome hasn't raced since his third-place finish in the time trial at the Road World Championships in Norway on September 20, the day he learned he had returned the adverse analytical finding.

The Team Sky rider has reiterated his confidence that he and his team "will be able to get to the bottom of what has happened" but acknowledged the "situation has created a lot of uncertainty".

Many in the sport, including UCI president David Lappartient, have suggested it would be better for cycling if Froome avoided racing until his case was settled.

Froome, however, said: "I hope people will appreciate there are limits to what I can say whilst the process is still ongoing but no-one is keener than me to move things forward as quickly as possible."

Explain

The rider and his British team have assembled a team of legal and medical experts in an effort to explain how he returned that limit-busting sample while staying within the allowed amount of puffs on his inhaler.

If they cannot offer a robust explanation, and replicate it in laboratory conditions, Froome faces an anti-doping rule violation, losing his Vuelta win and a ban this season.

Meanwhile, Nicolas Roche makes his seasonal debut at the Dubai Tour today as part of a seven-man BMC team. Four of the five stages are expected to suit the sprinters, with the general classification battle likely to be settled on Friday's stage up to the Hatta Dam.

Ireland's Conor Dunne and Matt Brammeier also ride their first race of the 2018 after being named on the Aqua Blue Sport team. The Irish team will be hoping to build on last week's success in Melbourne, where Lasse Norman Hansen won Stage 1 of the Herald Sun Tour.

Irish Independent

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