The brakes have finally gone on the crusade to have British cycling phenomenon Chris Froome kicked out of this year’s Tour de France.
Cycling governing body the UCI finally dropped doping allegations against Froome this week, leaving the way open for him to compete in the 2018 Tour, which starts on Saturday (July 7).
The move is seen as political.
If Team Sky, Froome’s team, belonged to one of the unofficial team groups, he would have had to obey an unwritten rule that forbids a rider subject of doping allegations from taking part in major events.
Riders in France and Italy are already grumbling that he has competed since the allegations arose from an inconclusive test in September, when Froome won the Vuelta a Espana.
Four-time Tour de France winner Froome, 33, fears his competitors will make life hard from him on the road – with verbal and physical confrontations.
“He has the right to operate in a safe environment,” said UCI president David Lappartient.
“I have heard calls, sometimes completely irrational, for violence on the Tour de France – I cannot accept that.”
“I call on all spectators to protect all the athletes and to respect the judicial decision so that Chris Froome can compete in a safe and serene environment like all other athletes.”
The doping allegations related to Froome’s undocumented use of the asthma drug salbutamol.
Going for record
More than the allowed level of the drug was found in a test during the Vuelta a Espana.
Five-time Tour champion Bernard Hinault – the last French winner of the race in 1985 – encouraged riders to strike in protest against Froome riding.
Froome, who is holds the current titles as winner of the Tour de France, Vuelta and Giro d’Italia, is bidding to move level with Eddy Merckx, Hinault, Jacques Anquetil and Miguel Indurain as the only riders to win the Tour five-times.
If he does so, he will equal Merckx’s record for a fourth Grand Tour win in a row.
The 2018 Tour has 176 riders from 22 teams and starts at La Roche sur Yon