According to several knowledgable sources, ASO, the organizer of the Tour de France, is making plans to keep Chris Froome of Team Sky from entering the French grand tour.
The scenario under consideration is that if his adverse analytical finding for the asthma medication salbutamol is not resolved when the Tour kicks off July 7th in the Vendee region, race officials will take legal action to bar him from racing.
Tour boss Christian Prudhomme has gone on public record calling the delays in Froome’s case “completely grotesque.” According to UCI rules, Froome is legally free to continue racing while his case is being decided.
The UCI rules are not the same as the ASO rules. They can refuse participation to “a team or one of its members whose presence is liable to damage the image or reputation of ASO or those of the event.”
However, according to a new source close to the situation, Team Sky has a workaround to ensure Froome gets an opportunity to defend his French title and perhaps win his fifth Tour de France.
The plan would involve Chris Froome impersonating Sky’s rising Colombian star Egan Bernal. “It’s a clever little bait and switch. ASO thinks Froome isn’t at the race but he actually is, disguised as Bernal,” said the source. “They’re both skinny and climbers and wear a Sky kit. And Froome’s been working on his Spanish.”
Once in the Tour de France, Froome would then set out to win the French grand tour, only revealing his true identity as he steps onto the top step of the podium in Paris. “Can you imagine Christian Prudhomme’s face as to hands Bernal the trophy and suddenly it’s Froome? That would be dramatic, right?” said the informed source.
The prospect of Froome somehow sneaking into the Tour de France has both the UCI and ASO concerned. There is already talk that the UCI’s competition committee is considering a Froome detector, a device they can use to scan all the riders at Sky to verify their true identity.
“It may well be that ASO demands a hair sample, a fingernail or blood in order to determine who is who,” said French cyclist journalist Alain Lejoke. “If they don’t want Froome there, it won’t matter if he is wearing a wig or a fake beard or acting like he’s Bernal. They will catch him out.”
With UCI president David Lappartient already conceding that Froome’s salbutamol case will not be resolved before the Giro d’Italia, a collision with the Tour de France seems more likely than ever.
Froome has shown no signs of limiting his ambitions despite the scrutiny and pressure of his legal case, the potential loss of his Vuelta a Espana title and a significant suspension. He still plans to try to win both the Giro and the Tour.
“One way or another, no matter what the lawyers and UCI and ASO think or do, Froome is riding the Tour de France,” said the informed source. “You can bet he’s going to a tanning salon so he looks as much like Bernal as possible.”
The salbutamol saga continues ….