By Martyn Herman
PALMA, Spain (Reuters) – The sport’s world governing body (UCI) should make the release of cyclists’ power and endurance data during the Tour de France standard procedure, according to Team Sky chief Dave Brailsford.
Brailsford took the unusual step during last year’s Tour of releasing eventual winner Chris Froome’s power data following one particularly impressive mountain stage victory which enabled the Briton to take a grip of the race.
Froome was the subject of doping allegations on his way to victory in Paris and had urine thrown at him by fans while one French newspaper suggested his bike contained a motor.
The endless snipes prompted Froome to undergo a series of physiological tests at GlaxoSmithKline’s Human Performance Lab in London in a bid to silence the sceptics.
The results, revealed in December, suggested that a significant weight loss helped explain his rise from obscurity in 2007 to Tour champion in 2013 and 2015.
Speaking at Team Sky’s training camp in Mallorca this week where Froome signed a two-year contract extension to 2018, Brailsford said the release of riders’ data for key stages of marquee races like the Tour, Giro and Vuelta would help end speculation.
He said he had raised the subject with UCI chief Brian Cookson.
“We feel under a lot of pressure. We get asked more than any other team about data,” Brailsford told reporters.
“Our riders, particularly Chris get asked more about data. The onus falls on us and whatever decision we make and how people interpret that in terms of our willingness to be open.
“If we all had an agreement ‘right this is what we are going to do as a sport’ that’s a better way of thinking about it.”
Froome’s data, Brailsford said, was consistent with “Tour de France winning physiology” but he believes the onus should not have been on the rider to initiate his own tests.
“I think it would be a big step in the right direction. Every now and then you want someone to show a bit of leadership, resolve an issue,” said Brailsford, who has championed the cause of clean racing since taking over as head of Team Sky.
“It should be standardised. What I want is to take away the element of, ‘well, Team Sky are willing to do this or they’re not willing to do this’.
“If we all agreed as teams, here is the model we’re all going to buy into, it takes away that discretionary decision. As a sport we need a policy in place where this is what we’re going to do with power data, the key climbs.
“It’s not complicated. Some people will agree, some people won’t but make a decision for everybody and the health of the sport. It seems the obvious thing to do.”
One of the key results from Froome’s lab data was his “VO2 max” — the maximum rate of oxygen consumption.
He measured 88.2 ml/kg/min when adjusted to his Tour de France weight. The average person’s would be somewhere in the 40s with a top Tour rider in the high 70s plus.
A UCI test in 2007, when the wiry Froome was heavier, revealed similar power and endurance results.
“He had an engine then and has an engine now,” Brailsford said of the Kenyan-born rider who in 2010 was diagnosed with the parasitic disease bilharzia.
Froome has always insisted he is 100 percent clean and spoke of “honouring” the yellow jersey when standing atop the podium in Paris last year. He was happy with the test results.
“It definitely had the effect or the reaction I had hoped for,” he said.
“I was grateful for the UCI for looking back into their records and finding the 2007 results, that was very helpful.
“The results certainly correlated in a way that people could see that they could tell a story.”
Froome, bidding for a third Tour de France this year as well as Olympic gold in Rio, agreed with Brailsford that cycling should be more open with performance data — making the comparison with the information made available in Formula 1.
“I had my own reasons for doing the testing because I had just won the Tour and it was something I wanted to do,” he said.
“But if it was something the UCI implemented and there was a uniform way of sharing that data I would be happy to go along with that.”
(Editing by Ed Osmond)