Team Sky have taken the opportunity of today’s second rest day of the Tour de France to release Chris Froome’s performance data from last Tuesday’s Stage 10 of the race in an attempt to refute insinuations that Chris Froome is cheating.
Since his victory at La Pierre St Martin last week Froome, who leads the race by 3 minutes 10 seconds as it heads into the Alps tomorrow, has faced calls to demonstrate that his victory in the Pyrenees was achieved clean.
The disclosure of the data by the team’s head of performance Tim Kerrison at the invitation of team principal Sir Dave Brailsford is designed to do just that.
On Sunday evening, Brailsford appeared on the France Télévisions show Stade 2 to discuss Froome’s performance. Viewers saw a video featuring doctor of physiology Pierre Saller who claimed that the riders power output was 7.04 watts per kilogram, which he described as an “abnormally high level.”
The Team Sky supremo described that figure as “wildly wrong” and today Kerrison said that the true figure was 5.78 watts per kilogram, reports the Guardian.
Brailsford said: ““We’re here to race and racing’s a human endeavour. It’s not a set of numbers on a spreadsheet, it’s not a power meter. It’s about racing.
“There’s a human aspect to it. That’s why we all love bike racing. And we’re going to go out and try to win this bike race.”
Given the ‘marginal gains’ philosophy that Brailsford employed to great success while performance director of British Cycling, his downplaying of the role of performance data may surprise some, although in a road race there are many more variables in play than in the controlled atmosphere of a velodrome, say.
He added: “I’m sure if Chris feels that he can attack and he could go and leave everybody behind, it would be a travesty, I think, if he had any doubt in his mind thinking: ‘Oh, I better not’. And he knows he won’t.
“That’s what we should do: continue to race in a clean and pure fashion.”
Referring to his appearance on Stade 2 on Sunday evening and the video featuring Dr Sallet, Brailsford said: “I wasn’t aware of it. It did take me a bit by surprise.
“I asked Tim to present a bit of data today to put to bed some of the numbers that they came up with, because they were wildly wrong.
“I do think in this day and age in the sport of cycling people do have to be responsible.
“If you are going to present something on television, to a nation, then you do have an obligation to get your facts right. It was a bit disappointing.
“What France 2 did, putting out that headline – 7 watts per kilo, a picture of Lance Armstrong and a picture of [Jan] Ullrich - that was so wildly wrong on so many levels that we thought we should just correct that and give the concrete facts and give the evidence so hopefully people could judge for themselves.”
Kerrison said that during that final 15.3 kilometre climb last Tuesday, Froome produced an average power output of 414 wats for the full climb and his VAM – a measure of metres climbed per hour – was 1,602, well below the levels of around 1,800 produced by Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani a decade and a half ago.
He added that since Froome uses an asymmetric chain ring, the power output figure needs to be adjusted to compensate for that, and the correct average figure for the entire climb would be closer to 390 watts.
Froome himself remains sceptical that it will silence all the doubters.
“I’m not sure if numbers are going to fix everything,” he said, “but certainly I feel as a team and myself, we’re definitely trying to be as open and transparent as possible.
“We’ve been asked more questions than any other team. I’ve been asked more questions than any other GC contender. I’d like to think we’re answering those questions.
“I really am focused on the racing side of things. I’ve worked too long to let anything throw me off. That’s all just happening on the side,” he added.
Racing resumes tomorrow with a 171 kilometre stage from Digne-les-Bains to Pra Loup.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.