Froome looms large over 'split' 2018 Tour de France

06 Juillet, 2018, 22:45 | Auteur: Adelaide Bullion

"I want to make history with a fifth Tour de France win and fourth consecutive Grand Tour", Froome said.

But cycling's governing body and WADA have ruled that it "does not constitute an AAF (adverse analytical finding)", meaning Froome will keep his Vuelta title plus his maglia rose from the Giro d'Italia in June.

"We've raced under trying circumstances at the Tour for the last six years", Team Sky leader Froome told BBC Radio 5 live's Bespoke podcast.

Froome can also match Merckx's record by winning his fourth straight Grand Tour, having followed last year's Tour title with victories in the Vuelta and the Giro d'Italia.

As he bids for a record-equalling fifth Tour crown and fourth Grand Tour on the trot following victories in the Tour, Vuelta and Giro d'Italia in the a year ago, Froome will be supported by a typically strong Team Sky line-up which includes fellow Brits Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe, former world champion Michal Kwiatkowski, super-domestique Wout Poels as well as Egan Bernal, Jonathan Castroviejo and Gianni Moscon.

Froome is looking to join Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain, Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault - who last month urged riders to strike in protest against the Briton's participation - as a record five-time Tour victor. "I've never started the Tour de France after riding the Giro d'Italia and it has meant a completely different approach to my season", said Froome.

The 33-year-old Kenyan-born rider said he is now looking forward to attempting to win a fifth Tour de France which gets underway on Saturday.

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The Italian racially abused FDJ's Kevin Reza at the Tour de Romandie a year ago, earning a six-week suspension, and was then accused of deliberately causing a crash with Reza's team-mate Sebastien Reichenbach in retribution for him highlighting that abuse, though he was cleared of wrongdoing in the latter case in June. Whatever added tests facing Froome, route designer Thierry Gouvenou said the switch between the flat and the mountains "is perhaps the greatest challenge of this Tour".

But the case has created a tense atmosphere that Team Sky's Froome will have to deal with mentally after it triggered a chorus of opposition against him.

Team principal Sir Dave Brailsford commented: "We go into the Tour with a lot of confidence".

"We are really proud that Gianni Moscon and Egan Bernal will be making their Tour de France debuts with us".

Huge crowds are expected as the race sets off from Noirmoutier on France's Atlantic coast and early challenges include a 35km team time trial on day three, while a run to the pretty seaside town of Quimper on day five features 10 hills. "It is a testament to his ability and determination that he has come back so strongly".

"The proceedings we had started to prevent damage to the image (of the race) is void because sporting authorities are stating no foul has been made", Prudhomme said.

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