(Reuters) - Defending champion Chris Froome said he was relieved to be able to pursue a fifth Tour de France title after being cleared by cycling’s governing body of any wrongdoing in a doping case.
On Monday, the case was dropped by UCI following an investigation after excessive levels of asthma drug Salbutamol was found in Froome’s urine sample during last September’s Vuelta a Espana.
Froome won the Giro d’Italia in May while the investigation was still going on, and the Tour organisers had sought to block his registration prior to the long-awaited verdict.
“Now I just want to draw a line in the sand and move on,” the 33-year-old told a news conference. “My aim is to win and go for a Tour-Giro double.
“Doing the Tour de France and the Vuelta (a Espana) last year taught me an amazing amount about how to manage my training... But really I can’t make a prediction about how it’s going to go.”
Froome believes he has nothing to fear from the French public, after UCI president David Lappartient called for a safe environment for the British rider during the race.
“I just raced the Giro in May with the Salbutamol thing hanging over me, and nothing happened there,” Froome added.
“In terms of safety I obviously would encourage fans of the sport to come watch the race, and if you are not necessarily a Chris Froome fan or a Sky fan, come to the race and put a jersey on of another team you do support. That would be my advice.”
Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford praised Froome’s strength of character during the doping investigation.
“Chris has shown great strength and integrity while also maintaining his form. He won the Giro under those conditions,” he said.
“This is not the first time where there has been this feeling (against the team). We have to focus on our race.”
The 105th edition of the Tour begins in Noirmoutier-en-l’Ile on Saturday.
Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson