RBA/AFP – Chris Froome admitted it had not been easy to focus in his first race of the season amid the controversy over his abnormal doping test, as he saw Sky team mate Wout Poels win the Ruta del Sol second stage on Thursday.
“It’s hard not to be distracted to some extent with everything that’s been going on,” said Froome at the start of Thursday’s 140km ride from Otura to just outside Jaen in Andalusia. “But I really enjoy the racing, the actual bike-riding side of it, so that’s been quite easy for me to stay focused on that.”
The four-time Tour de France winner finished seventh on the day, 27 seconds off the pace, having come home in the peloton on Thursday’s opening stage in the five-day race in southern Spain.
“Obviously this is my first race of the season now and yesterday I did’t feel super, if I’m going to be completely honest,” he said on Thursday. The 32-year-old Briton had tipped Poels to do well, with the Dutchman “in great shape at the moment”.
Poels duly won at the summit finish and takes the overall lead in the race. He triumphed by a margin of two seconds from Spain’s Luis Leon Sanchez and Tim Wellens of Belgium. Two years ago, Poels was Froome’s super domestique on the Tour and his form was such that many observers tipped him as a potential team leader who could challenge for victory in his own right.
Froome is making his first appearance since it was revealed in December that he had given an abnormal doping test on last year’s Vuelta a Espana, which he won. He has the right to ride because salbutamol, the substance that showed up in the test, is an anti-asthma drug which can be taken legally and so does not lead to an automatic ban. The UCI have asked Froome to explain why twice the allowed limit showed up in his sample, but they have not yet ruled on the case.