Chris Froome has been kicked off the Tour de France – but expects to be reinstated on appeal in the next 48 hours.
Organisers Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) are believed to have told Team Sky not include Britain’s four-times Yellow Jersey winner in their squad for the 2018 race, which starts next Saturday, claiming his presence would damage the race’s image.
But Sky lodged an urgent protest and will discover the result of their appeal by in the next couple od days – and Froome’s wife Michelle, who is also his manager, insisted: “Chris will ride the Tour.”
Va Va Froome is still being investigated by world governing body UCI after twice the permitted level of asthma medication salbutamol was found in a urine sample he provided at the Vuelta in Spain last September.
And less than a week before the 105th edition of Le Tour, ASO organisers have invoked a rule which “reserves the right to exclude a team or any of its members whose presence would damage the image or reputation of the event.”
Team Sky are understood to have appealed to the French national Olympic committee and a hearing is due to take place on Tuesday with a decision expected 24 hours later.
A statement from the British-based tea, whose riders have won Le Tour 2018 five times in the last six years, said: “We are confident that Chris will be riding the Tour as we know he has done nothing wrong.”
Under UCI’s rules, 33-year-old Froome is entitled to carry on racing until his salbutamol case is resolved.
But the extraordinary spike in his adverse test result last September – his only sample which has ever raised the alarm among anti-doping hawks – was leaked to French newspaper Le Monde.
y strange coincidence, it was Le Monde who revealed ASO’s intention to block Froome from racing in Le Tour this year.
A powerful cast, from UCI president David Lappartient to Tour de France legend Bernard Hinault, have led the chorus calling for Froome to stop racing until his case salbutamol dispute is settled.
Hinault even called for riders to go on strike in protest if Froome was allowed to ride – a viewpoint Team Sky branded “uneducated and ill-informed.”
Froome completed a hat-trick of Grand Tour triumphs in France, Spain and Italy with a remarkable win in May at the Giro, where his astonishing 50-mile solo breakaway on stage 19 broke fellow Brit Simon Yates’ long-time leadership of the race.
If he is cleared to join the peloton on the start line in the Vendee region, Froome will bid to become only the fifth man – along with Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain, Jacques Anquetil and Hinault – to win Le Tour five times.