MONT VENTOUX, France (VN) — Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond likes what he sees these days in pro cycling from Chris Froome and Sky.
The American was atop Mont Ventoux for the Froome show on Sunday and fielded a few questions on the famous mountain’s summit.
LeMond has been sharply critical of performances by modern stars during their respective eras (Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador), but he held back from accusing today’s best grand tour rider of cheating.
Instead, he said Sky and other teams should release power data to be reviewed by independent panelists in conjunction with blood profiles to add to the biological passport program.
And he didn’t mince words about teams’ reluctance to release that data to experts.
“It’s bullshit. That’s bullshit. Because if you can’t release your watts … they’re doing it right now,” he said of teams reviewing power data following the stage. “They’re looking at it right now, bottom to the top.
“The worst part, there’s speculating on that. If you don’t have anything to hide, and you can repeat it, give it to everybody.”
Opponents of releasing data, be it blood values or power numbers, have said the figures are ripe for misinterpretation.
“But that’s what they said about drug controls. ‘It’s subject to interpretation’ … it isn’t,” LeMond said. “You’d never use it as a positive. You’d look at [data] along with your blood profile. It wouldn’t be a positive.”
LeMond said releasing riders’ data “would end the speculation,” the whispers that attribute every great ride to doping.
“It would be great to end that,” he said. “It’s for the riders. It would be ideal for everybody. You get rid of the speculation.”
Speculation hasn’t been in short supply at this Tour, after Froome’s displays of mastery over the climbs, the time trial, and former rivals now quarreling over podium scraps.
Riders at this Tour have been asked repeatedly about performance-enhancing drugs and surreal performances, a hangover from the Lance Armstrong scandal, the confession of Jan Ullrich, and many other bitter post-mortems.
Releasing power data could put an end to some of those questions, LeMond said.
“It could be released six weeks after, six months. … It’s very simple, actually. You take the guy’s weight. You get the temperature, from here to there, and there’s the watts. So [Sky's Dave Brailsford is] better off just putting it away, just showing it,” LeMond said.
“If they use watts. If not, it’s all going to be speculation. Because the ultimate energy, everything you put in, everything that goes out of you, has to go through those pedals. It’s power, and that’s it. It’s so basic, I go, ‘Why is everybody avoiding this?’”
Sky’s management has made a point of zero tolerance in doping, releasing staff who have admitted to involvement in the past, such as coach Bobby Julich.
They’ve also made a point of promoting a “marginal gains” approach, meaning no detail is too small to worry over if it can help take time from competitors.
“They put the money in it. They run it the way they should,” LeMond said of the team. “If you have that money you should run it really professionally.
“I think it’s great. They’ve got a professional attitude. I think the British cycling, just the whole cycling in Britain, has been great. It’s really brought people into cycling. It’s a good thing. It’s a really good thing. The only thing I have negative to say is that part. The watts.”
On Froome, LeMond said the holder of the yellow jersey (by more than four minutes, as of Sunday’s destruction on Mont Ventoux) was a natural if ever there was one.
“Froome looks like a talent. I would say the only question is, back it up with watts. Because if he comes up [Ventoux] as 475 watts average, that’s going to be 6.8 watts per kilo. …”
And so it goes.
Asked if he thought it logical that a clean rider would eventually surpass the high-water marks of a doped one, LeMond said yes. And he thinks there are clean riders competing today.
“I do believe. I absolutely believe that,” he said.
“I don’t want to come and speculate about shit, I really don’t. Because I love the sport, and I think riders, you know … they’ve been in an incredibly difficult situation.
“I think you could eliminate so much … I want to defend riders, too.”