Watching Chris Froome motor away at a high cadence in thin air atop Mont Ventoux yesterday certainly was exciting. Riding alongside perhaps the best pure climber in the race, pedaling at a rate approaching 100 rpm, urging his fellow race leader to do a turn on the front, and finally charging to victory up the steep drive next to the weather station/observation tower, besting Nairo Rojas by 30 seconds, Chris Froome brought to mind nothing so much as Lance “Nobody” Armstrong riding the final kilometers on Ventoux with the late Marco Pantani in 2000, thirteen years ago.
Armstrong won the Tour that year (he would un-win it in 2012), and Pantani is only a memory except to a few ghoulish Italian prosecutors who want to rebuke him posthumously for using PEDs. And Lance did not win his stage, but in a misunderstood and perhaps misplaced gesture intended as good sportsmanship, he let Pantani win it. Very likely they were both on PEDs. Very likely, it seems to me, Froome was on them yesterday,
The great Greg LeMond said that when something seems “incredible” or “unbelievable” in cycling, it probably is. That’s certainly how yesterday’s performance struck me. The power ratings, the sheer speed, the apparent absence of all fatigue (though he did need oxygen afterwards), the singular dramatic superiority of Froome to the rest of the field, all add up to an incredible, unbelievable performance. I am going to be very interested to see how the clean cycling advocates spin this. Many have accused Team Sky of doping just because they have won a lot of races this season. I have resisted that view. But Froome is putting himself in the position of needing to prove a negative–not a happy position, yet when you’re distinctly, singularly, above the rest, it makes the once burned, twice shy cycling fan wonder long and hard. And if the next thing Froome does is launch on a 120 km solo breakaway and end up with an 11:1 T/E ratio, I am really going to be suspicious.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.