We Need To Talk About…Mikel Landa

Welcome to a new feature which allows you, the reader, to contribute to debates on the most controversial and exciting topics in the pro cycling world. Each week, you’ll find the topic up for discussion on the Freewheeling Twitter page – so add @FreewheelingBlog if you want to join in! If you have any suggestions for discussion topics please feel free to write in, there’s always something getting pro cycling fans hot under the helmet, there’ll be plenty to talk about!

First up, We Need to Talk About...Mikel Landa

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Landa, with fellow Spaniard Contador on his wheel, during the 2017 Tour de France. Photo: Eurosport ES

Who? Mikel Landa, Spanish rider currently signed for Team Sky. Landa is a talented climber from the Basque Country, who announced himself as a rider to watch whilst riding in support of Fabio Aru at Astana during the 2014 and 2015 seasons.

Notable Achievements? Landa had a successful 2014, winning a stage at the Giro de Trentino and providing support to Fabio Aru at the Giro d’Italia.

It was his compelling ride at the 2015 Giro d’Italia that really put his name on the map however. Landa’s job for Astana at the Giro was to ride as a domestique for team leader Fabio Aru. Aru showed patchy form throughout the race, yet his Spanish domestique was putting on a strong display, and found himself at the sharp end of the General Classification. Landa was the beneficiary of a controversial commisaires’ decision when Richie Porte was given a time penalty for accepting a wheel change from fellow Aussie rider Simon Clarke. Unfortunately, the comradely gesture damaged Porte’s GC chances as Clarke, whilst coming from the same country as Richie, was not from the same team, making the wheel change an illegal race move. Landa was promoted to third on GC as a result of Porte’s time penalty.

Although Aru finished the race ahead of Landa as second on GC, Landa was also on the podium in third. Landa had, on occasion, shown himself to be stronger than his team leader, notably on the Madonna di Campiglio climb, where he finished the stage 6 seconds ahead of Aru. Landa took two stage wins in the 2015 Giro, and moved ahead of Aru in GC by the end of stage 18, although this situation had been reversed by the end of the race. Some of the set piece battles had been between the two Spaniards Contador and Landa, and there was a feeling that the race would have been even more compelling if Landa hadn’t been ostensibly riding for Fabio Aru.

Why do we need to talk about Mikel Landa? As we saw with the 2015 Giro, the role of domestique can be a difficult one if you find yourself in an unofficial competition with your own team leader for a position in the General Classification. This year, now riding for Team Sky, Landa found himself in the eye of the storm when he rode away from Chris Froome on stage 12 of the Tour de France. Accused of ‘not looking back to find Froome’, Landa pressed ahead during the final 200 metres of the stage to Peyragudes, keeping his foot on the gas whilst Froome slowly deflated behind him, losing both time and the yellow jersey in the process.

Upon returning to the team bus, directeur sportif Nicholas Portal was seen angrily speaking with Landa in full view of the awaiting media, the facial expressions and gesticulations leaving the viewer in no doubt as to the nature of the confrontation. Landa’s words to the press following stage 12 didn’t do much to smooth the situation. “The stage victory was being played out, it didn’t occur to me to look back” being one of many pointed comments about the race situation and Sky’s curtailing of his hopes and clipping of his wings.

Landa finished the Tour in 4th place, just 1 second off the podium – something he blamed on the tactics employed by the team. Although Landa has taken great care to point out that he has no hard feelings towards the eventual winner Chris Froome, he did speak to the Spanish press where he made his feelings about Team Sky plain. Claiming that he was never allowed to reach his full potential during the 2017 Tour, particularly on the Izoard stage, Landa spoke of his promising attack as the race leaders neared the summit – which ultimately came to nothing. “Froome was telling me to go slower, slower, slower. ..I was very angry that day because I sacrificed myself without making any gains for the team”.

Standing on the podium in Paris with his Sky colleagues as winners of the team competition, Landa cut a desolate figure, unable to raise a smile with his feelings etched into a frustrated and pained facial expression. “I don’t want to be in this situation again, it’s so frustrating!”. Landa is rumoured to be transferring to the Movistar team next season, where it is said that he will lead the team at the Giro, a race which seems to be well suited to his riding style, with Quintana targetting the Tour. This should negate any problems with leadership questions. Chris Boardman summed up the Landa-Froome situation in one pertinent sentence – “That’s what happens when you make a team out of team leaders”.

Here’s what Freewheeling’s Twitter followers had to say about Landa venting his feelings after the race to the Spanish press…..

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Four Wins, Four Things….

In honour of Chris Froome’s 4th Tour de France win, we look back at 4 things we learned from the 104th edition of the race…..

1) Team Sky can multi task.

Not content with having the rider who completed the course in the shortest amount of time on the team, Sky was also home to the rider who rode round France the slowest – Luke Rowe was this year’s Lanterne Rouge, 4 hours behind his leader Chris Froome.

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Road Captain, Lanterne Rouge….Team Sky show they can munti task with Luke Rowe

2) Team Sky have a thing about numbers…

It looks like 4 might well be Team Sky’s lucky number, which is good, because 9 clearly isn’t. Geraint Thomas crashed out of the race on Stage 9, on July 9th, wearing race number 9. Thomas had been in an excellent position at the Giro a few months earlier when a crash on Stage 9 of the Italian tour caused injuries which eventually saw Team Sky pull him from the race. (There was another 9 involved there too, as Thomas wore number 179, ooh spooky!) Perhaps next year they’ll put Geraint in the number 8 or something, or rename Stage 9 as Stage 8+1. One thing’s for sure, he won’t have the option of turning his race number upside down as is customary for rider 13. (I’ll leave you to think about that for a second – it took me a while to work out why that wouldn’t work….slow day, call me Rowe!)

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This is what happens when you wear number 9 apparently…Geraint’s jersey following his race-ending crash ob the Mont du Chat stage

3) It’s not all about Froome – Landa vs Portal, Kwiatokowski vs rear wheels.

This Tour gave us shades of the 2012 Wiggins v Froome drama when Mikel Landa rode away from a clearly struggling Froome in the closing 200m of the stage to Peyragudes. Briefly stumbling to work out why, commentators seemed relieved when some clever spark suggested that Landa was riding to try and steal some of the bonus seconds on offer to prevent them from going to Froome’s rivals. The angry scenes at the Team Sky bus following the stage seemed to suggest that this wasn’t the case – Directeur Sportif Nicolas Portal was so incensed with Landa’s attack that he couldn’t wait to question the Spaniard in the privacy of the team bus, deciding instead to have words and gesticulate at his rider in full view of the world’s press.

Team Sky’s winning ways didn’t stop at the yellow jersey, as they won the team prize and Michal Kwiatkowsi won Rouleur magazine’s Supreme Banana award. Throughout the race, Rouleur awarded a Top Banana prize to the ‘unsung hero of each stage’. Kwiato won the banana for his instantaneous morphing into a mechanic on the road to Le Puy en Velay on Stage 15. Froome broke a spoke on his rear wheel at a critical moment on the stage; both Froomey himself and Dave Brailsford fully recognise that this could easily have been the end of Team Sky’s grip on the yellow jersey. With an enviable sense of chill, the former World Champion Kwiatkowsi pulled up alongside his team leader, and calmly exchanged Froome’s broken back wheel for his own. It happened so quickly that it was only after the stage had finished that Kwiato’s heroics were appreciated in full. His wheel change was so quick, and Kwiatkowsi so calm, that the incident was almost downplayed.

Now that the Tour is over, we can all appreciate the brilliance of this moment, not to mention the other numerous brilliant Kwiato moments, like actually riding himself to a painful looking standstill on the Izoard, or the tweet he sent attached to a video of him casually throwing his (highly expensive) sunglasses away – “state of mind while you’re over the threshold” (you’ll be pleased to know he sent a follow up tweet the next day thanking Oakley for his replacements “back looking cool”). When presented with the Rouleur Supreme Banana, Kwiatkowsi replied “I was always aiming for the yellow banana on this Tour. Chris has only one yellow jersey, so I’m happy to have the yellow banana. It is yellow, yes?” (I hope he really did say that. They also asked what he was going to do with the Supreme Banana award, which is not actually one supreme specimen of the fruit, but a whole bunch of five. “I’m going to make a smoothie I guess”).

Look up super domestique in the dictionary and there’ll be a photo of Michal Kwiatkowsi, who may or may not be brandishing a banana. Kwiato the mechanic could well have won the Tour for Chris Froome.

4) Chris Froome has a cute baby.

 

Photos courtesy of Reuters, Geraint Thomas Instagram, ASO. Video footage courtesy of France TV and ASO.

Grand Tour Legend Stephen Roche on Life After Racing, The Dominance of Team Sky, and the World Championships ‘in a desert’

The 15th anniversary of the Cycle Show in Birmingham was the biggest yet, with over 300 of the UK’s brightest and best cycling shops, clothing designers, equipment manufacturers, coaching programmes and purveyors of energy bars, gels, powders and drinks converging on the NEC for what was essentially a three-day festival of the bike.  ITV’s Ned Boulting held court on the Protect Your Bubble stage throughout the weekend, interviewing Grand Tour legend Stephen Roche on Sunday afternoon.  Roche’s interview proved to be warm, witty and entertaining, and offered insights into the Tour legend’s thoughts on the current state of World Tour racing, the up coming World Championships in Doha, and his son’s move from Team Sky.

Ned Boulting introduced the two-time Grand Tour winner to the stage during the afternoon session on the final day of the three-day event.  Roche, who won the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France and the World Road Race Championships in the same year, now runs successful cycle camps in Majorca, which have become increasingly popular with Brits following Bradley Wiggins’ winning performances at the Tour de France and London Olympic Games.

For the former pro, the bike is clearly still a hugely important part of his life.  “If I don’t ride my bike it’s like a pressure cooker…it builds up, then I ride my bike and it goes down again” explained Roche.  “When I was young I learned to enjoy cycling, and then I was lucky enough to become a professional.  Now I’m back enjoying it again.  I participate now – I don’t compete”.

Asked whether retiring his racing wheels to “re-join the human race” had been a difficult process, Roche was keen to stress that they key to feeling content in that decision is to change the way you think about your relationship with the bike.  “Lots of guys have difficulty turning that corner.  But it’s impossible to stay at that level, you shouldn’t keep thinking ‘it wasn’t like this before’…”  Roche was quick to accept that retirement would have an effect on the way he rode.  “I had 9% body fat then, now I have a lot more!  The age is there, and I’m a granddad too…you should be happy cycling, and not keep the past in the present.”

Whilst Stephen can now ‘participate’; it is his son Nicolas who does the competing.  For the past two years, the younger Roche has been an important member of Team Sky, riding in support of Chris Froome.  Prior to that, Nicolas was a member of Tinkoff-Saxo, working as a domestique for Alberto Contador.  Roche was brought into Team Sky “with the potential to win small stage races, take stage wins, and be a good team mate to Chris Froome” explained Stephen.  Nicolas was identified as a key rider to get into breakaways, and was a huge asset to Sky due to his exceptional race craft.

Two years on however, and Nico has made the decision to leave Sky for the BMC Racing Team, once again working alongside his friend Richie Porte.  Both Porte and Nico Roche are riders with excellent palmarès and potential, however with Chris Froome so dominant on the road at present, the only way for talented riders of their calibre to fulfil that potential is to move away from Team Sky.  Ned Boulting, questioning Stephen Roche on his son’s future, conceded “Sky target the Tour de France” and the pair agreed that, with the current crop of riders led by Froome, there’s little opportunity for a “Plan B” to flourish on the Grand Tours.  Sky, it seems, may find themselves as victims of their own success as riders like Roche and Porte move on to pastures new.  Once Froome loses that dominance, Stephen Roche is concerned that there’s “no one there to take up that role”.

Asked whether situations like that at Sky are a result of the modern pressures upon the sport, Roche agreed.  “Racing is totally different now.  There are totally different commercial interests…we have Race Radio and power meters, which can make the race a bit boring.  In my era, nobody jumped up and down for third place.  Now everyone’s racing for a top ten finish.  A top ten placing in the Tour could mean a good contract, more money…”  On the subject of power meters and other in-race technology, Boulting enquired as to what Roche would change to bring back the sense of excitement associated with his own era of racing.  “Abolish car to rider contact, have rider to car contact only. Race Radio damages the spectacle.  We have riders too concerned with power meters, detailed data and calculations.  We do need to move with technology – don’t just throw it out – but make it better.  Otherwise we have riders, tactically not knowing what to do by themselves”.

In the current pro peloton, Roche is impressed with a number of young riders coming up through the ranks.  “A Grand Tour rider survives the time trials, the climbs, the wind, the rain, the crashes…one good thing to come out of the Tour de France are the skilled young riders – Quintana, Bardet, Yates, Alaphillipe…”  His son’s former team mate, Contador, also impresses.  “He is a great asset to cycling.  He is tactically good, he doesn’t wait until the last climb, he throws down the gauntlet.  We need riders like this”.

In view of the upcoming World Championships, Roche was asked which recent World Road Race Champion has impressed him the most.  “Certainly Sagan, but it would have to be Thor Hushovd.  He was 90 kilos, so he had to get points ahead of the other sprinters, going away on mountains for the intermediate sprint points.  He was a great sprinter, an intelligent rider.  A nice guy, with tactical sense”.  As for the upcoming World Championships in Doha, Roche didn’t fancy the course much!  “It’s totally flat.  In a desert”.  So who does he back to win?  “A sprinter.  But I’d like to see Tom Boonen win, he could climb off his bike and say he stopped on a high note, but it will be very difficult for him.  The wind could blow sand across the road.  It’s a sprinters day”.

Roche prefers the 2018 course, when the World Championship comes to Austria.  “It’s a very hard circuit” he explained, and could possibly see the rainbow jersey conferred upon a Tour contender once again.  “People are wishing for it to happen”.  On the subject of jerseys, Ned Boulting asked which was the most prestigious in the cycling world – the World Champion’s rainbows or the maillot jaune?  Peter Sagan, taking both the yellow and green jerseys at this year’s Tour de France  – whilst simultaneously being the World Champion and entitled to wear the associated rainbow jersey – famously quipped “If I lose yellow, I have green.  If I lose green, I have rainbow”.  Roche, debating the merits of each, revealed one of his greatest career regrets.  “I regret not being able to wear my rainbow jersey much due to my knee injury”.  Like Roche, Sagan hasn’t been seen in the stripes too often, although this has been due to the number of points and leader’s jerseys he has accumulated in his World Championship year.  “If I were him, I’d have been frustrated to have to wear the green jersey (at the Tour de France).  You only get one chance to wear rainbow”.

Before it was time for Roche to go, Ned Boulting asked if the audience had anything they’d like to ask the Tour legend – “it’s not every day that you have Stephen Roche answering your questions!”  After answering a number of questions from the floor, Roche was asked “what’s your least favourite mountain?”  Spinning the answer in a more positive light, Roche replied “there wasn’t one I didn’t like – but some didn’t particularly like me!”  Relaying the story of his first ever attempt at Alpe d’Huez on the Tour when he was a new face in the peloton at 23, Roche told the Cycle Show “I forgot to eat.  It was lights out at the foot of the Alpe!”  The mountain may have had other ideas, but the 23-year-old Roche wouldn’t have dreamed of giving up.  He rode on, finishing almost twenty minutes down on the bunch, but crossing the line none the less.  “Alpe d’Huez is an incredible climb…it has to be treated with respect”.

It’s a story which sums up Roche’s entire interview – peppered with humour, humility and honesty, whilst showing the reverence with which he held – and still holds – the sport he loves.  A story of the bike, of the road, and above all, of humanity – le Tour in microcosm.  And with that, Stephen Roche leaves the stage, to greet fans clutching pens and programmes, autograph ready.  Almost thirty years on from his golden 1987, Stephen Roche is still a charismatic champion with the ability to inspire, one of the greats, and a fantastic ambassador for the sport.  Chapeau Mr Roche, and also to the Cycle Show – same time next year?

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Further TUEs Leaked as Wiggins Forced To Appear on TV to Explain His Actions

As the hackers known as Fancy Bears revealed medical information attributed to Olympic gold medallist Fabian Cancellara and Tour of Britain winner Steve Cummings on Friday afternoon, Bradley Wiggins found himself still embroiled in a heated debate about his own use of TUEs. As we reported last week, both former Sky rider Wiggins and current Sky superstar Chris Froome were subject to detailed scrutiny in the media and online following the release of documents obtained by a hack on a World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) database, showing that both Tour de France winners had taken banned substances with a therapeutic use exemption or TUE, the method by which professional athletes are permitted to use such medications to treat ongoing conditions such as asthma.

Chris Froome had previously spoken about his use of TUEs when his 2014 prescription for prednisolone was revealed. Earlier this year, the three time TdF winner had spoken to The Scotsman newspaper about using TUEs, which he confirmed he had done twice in his career, once in May 2013 for 5 days at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and again for 7 days during the Tour of Romandy in 2014. Both TUEs were UCI approved as part of the treatment for Froome’s asthma.  Addressing the recent WADA hack, Froome shrugged off any controversy.  “I’ve openly discussed my TUEs with the media and have no issues with the leak, which confirms my statements”.

Wiggins however was not so lucky.  The controversy surrounding his TUEs centred around claims made in his 2012 autobiography ‘My Time’, in which Sir Bradley wrote that he had never received any injections in relation to his cycling career.  The leaked WADA information appeared to tell a different tale, showing that, alongside a host of TUEs for asthma medication such as salbutamol and formoterol, Wiggins had been granted TUEs for injectable Triamcinolone Acetonide, used to treat a pollen allergy.  A statement was hurried out on behalf of the former Sky man, claiming that the rider had been referring in his autobiography to the use of “illegal intravenous injections”, not approved intramuscular injections such as triamcinolone. This statement did nothing to quell the furore. Some felt uneasy that Wiggins had not made any direct comment, choosing instead to communicate through his press team. Others felt that, by drawing attention to the difference between intravenous and intramuscular treatments, the statement was addressing the public as if they were fools, and was also starting to appear as a case of ‘one doth protest too much’.

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Photo: Wiggins on Stage 7b of the 2016 Tour of Britain.

Questions were also asked over Team Sky’s relationship with disgraced doping doctor Geert Leinders, who was hired by the team during the 2011 and 2012 seasons, when Wiggins was approaching the pinnacle of his road career. Leinders was banned from working in sport for life after he was found to have committed serious anti-doping violations when working for the Rabobank team. Whilst there have never been any allegations of doping stemming from the doctor’s time at Team Sky, a USADA report compiled as a result of the 2012 investigation into Lance Armstong claims that Leinders administered, possessed and trafficked a host of banned substances including EPO, testosterone and corticosteroids  for Rabobank riders during his tenure as the team. Leinders was also accused of administering blood transfusions to Rabobank team members.

Forced to address his relationship with the Belgian doctor, a spokesman for Bradley Wiggins explained “Brad has no direct link to Geert Leinders. Leinders was ‘on race’ doctor for Team Sky for a short period and so was occasionally present at races dealing with injuries sustained whilst racing, such as colds and bruises. Leinders had no part in Brad’s TUE application”.

Again, the statement did nothing to quell the rising tide of voices questioning Bradley Wiggins.  Four years on from the outcome of the Lance Armstrong investigation, fans are wary of being taken for fools yet again. Releasing statements through spokespeople instead of directly addressing the matter as Froome chose to do, has prolonged the sense of unease. By refusing to answer questions about his conduct in person, many have decided that Wiggins must have something to hide.

In the face of the ongoing storm, Wiggins has been forced to try a different approach to cease the clamour, by appearing on national TV on Sunday morning as part of the Andrew Marr Show. Following yet another Olympic medal haul for Team GB in the velodrome at the Rio games, Wiggins should be on our screens celebrating the close of a fantastically successful career as one of Britain’s most decorated Olympic athletes. Instead he faces the long, drawn out hangover from the Armstrong era.

As the controversy rumbles on with no sign of slowing, former UK pro cyclist and anti-doping campaigner David Millar told The Daily Telegraph that in-competition use of triamcinolone should be banned, and that there should be complete transparency surrounding the use of TUEs.  Millar, who himself was handed a suspension from the sport in 2004 for admitting to the use of performance enhancing drugs, claimed that triamcinolone, brand name Kenacort, was  incredibly powerful – even when compared with more well known performance enhancers such as EPO. “I took EPO and testosterone patches” explained Millar, “and they obviously produce huge differences in your blood…you felt at your top level. Kenacort though, was the only one you took and three days later you looked different. It’s scary because it’s catabolic so it’s eating into you. It felt destructive. It felt powerful….if it’s that strong, we shouldn’t be allowed to take it unless there is a serious issue. And if we’re suffering from that serious an issue, we shouldn’t be racing”. Millar went on to say that he couldn’t “fathom” why doctors would be prescribing such a powerful drug before races. “We shouldn’t have to face this”.

Sir Bradley may well be thinking “we shouldn’t have to face this” each time another armchair detective on Twitter claims to have known all along that there was something afoot at Team Sky. Whilst the UCI condones the use of TUEs, many so-called cycling fans are whipping themselves up into a frenzy over the WADA leaks, forgetting that Wiggins et al had explicit approval from cycling’s governing body to take the medication listed on their TUEs. Taking an approved drug to treat a recognized condition is not the same as systematic and sustained doping. Just like that colleague who is always ‘ill’ on a Friday, there are probably those who take advantage of the system, just as there will be those who follow the TUE procedure to the letter. The release of this information does not mean that any of the cyclists named by Fancy Bears have done anything wrong.

Establishing how to manage the TUE system so that it is fair to everyone should form part of the UCI’s approach to building  a successful anti-doping programme. Meanwhile, one of the UK’s previously best-loved sportsmen is caught in the cross-hairs, facing a fight for his reputation.

Preview – Eneco Tour Stage 1

Monday sees the start of the Eneco Tour, the only WorldTour stage race assigned dual nationality – shared between Belgium and the Netherlands.

Appearing later in the race calendar to accommodate the Olympic Games, the race is packed with star riders using the event as the perfect preparation for the World Championships in October.  Fresh from his win at the European Championships, Sagan will be on the start line of the Eneco Tour for the first time, as Freewheeling favourite Geraint Thomas leads Team Sky supported by previous World Champion Michal Kwiatkowski and Brits Luke Rowe, Andrew Fenn and Ben Swift.

Although the route favours the Classics experts, the race contains something for everyone with flat stages, hilly stages, a team time trial and an individual TT.   Last year Belgian Tom Wellens of Lotto-Soudal took the overall classification, with Olympic road race champion Greg Van Avermaet of BMC in second.  This year offers a favourable parcours for sprinters, with Andre Greipel, Peter Sagan, Nacer Bouhanni, Caleb Ewan, Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb all in the hunt for stage wins and sprint points, with the orange points jersey their ultimate prize.

Stage 1, a 184km circuit from Bolsward in the Netherlands, could see a bunch sprint on the finish line, although with part of the route hugging the coast, there is potential for echelons to form and split the peloton.  The weather forecast however looks good, so it seems likely that the bunch will finish together.  The streets are fairly narrow in the final run-in, so teams will need to be organised to avoid a messy finish and potential pile ups.

With the individual time trial on day two, the GC contenders will be on the hunt for time bonuses to secure a good TT starting position, so team tactics will come into play early in the race.

Freewheeling Prediction – A bunch sprint with the potential for one of the big names to secure the stage victory.  Greipel, Kittel and Sagan will hope to be up there, but don’t underestimate the strength of Team Cofidis, who’ll be working to deliver Nacer Bouhanni to the line, and Orica-BikeExchange have a sense of purpose with Caleb Ewan, fresh from his Tour of Britain stage win in London.

Russian Hack Leads to Questions For Wiggins and Froome

Russian ‘cyber-espionage’ website Fancy Bears has released documents detailing medical data and therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for a number of athletes as a result of a hack on the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) database.

On Tuesday 13th September 2016, the Russian group released data attributed to tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams, and the US gymnast Simone Biles, amongst claims that they had ‘sensational proof’ of athletes participating in doping practices.

The following day, details of therapeutic use exemptions obtained by Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome were released, alongside medical reports on numerous international athletes.

Froome’s data showed TUEs from 2013 and ’14, confirming statements made previously by the three-time Tour de France winner to the Scotsman newspaper, in which he explained that he had used TUEs twice in his career, providing dates which correspond to the leaked Wada data.  Froome was shown to have been prescribed prednisolone, used to treat autoimmune and inflammatory conditions, during the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné.  The second TUE, which was widely reported, dates from April 2014, when Froome was competing at the Tour of Romandie.  When questioned about the leak, Froome explained that he had ‘no issues’ given his previous transparency on the matter.

“I’ve openly discussed my TUEs with the media and have no issues with the leak, which confirms my statements”.  Froome went on to explain that he had twice used TUEs in his 9-year career, the last being in 2014.

The release of Sir Bradley Wiggins’ data caused more of a stir, with the cyclist forced to release two statements to clarify what he’d written in his autobiography regarding the use of needles.  Information published in the leak showed that Wiggins was permitted to use injectable Triamcinolone Acetonide to treat a pollen allergy, which appeared to contradict comments in his 2012 autobiography, ‘My Time’, in which Wiggins claimed to have never received injections in relation to his cycling career.  In a statement released on behalf of the Tour de France winner on Saturday, it was claimed that Wiggins “stands by his comment concerning the use of illegal intravenous needle injections”.  The spokesman went on to explain that the comments in the book were made in relation to the “historic and illegal practice of intravenous injections of performance enhancing substances, which was the subject of a law change by the UCI in 2011.  The triamcinolone injection that is referred to in the Wada leaks is an intramuscular treatment for asthma and is fully approved by the sports’ governing body”.

Triamcinolone is a controversial substance owing to the fact that Lance Armstrong tested positive for the drug at the 1999 Tour de France.  It was subsequently revealed that Armstrong had used a back-dated medical certificate for saddle sore cream in order to claim a TUE after his team were informed of the positive test.  Wiggins was prescribed the medication as a result of his asthma and pollen allergy, however the substance is included on the Wada prohibited list due to its action as a corticosteroid.  Corticosteroids are open to abuse due to their ability to improve recovery by reducing inflammation, and some are questioning the timing of Wiggins’ TUEs for this particular medication – right before the 2011 and 2012 Tour de France (he won the latter), and once prior to the 2013 Giro d’Italia.

Wiggins also faces questions over Team Sky’s 2011-2012 involvement with Geert Leinders, a disgraced cycle doctor banned for life after he was found to have committed serious anti-doping violations whilst working for the Rabobank Team.  Wiggins has made it clear that Leinders was not involved with issuing his TUEs, which were verified independently to Wada, UCI and British Cycling guidelines.

Geraint Thomas to Lead Team Sky at Eneco Tour

We may be nearing the end of the 2016 race calendar, but there’s still plenty to look forward to in September and October.  In terms of stage races, the Eneco Tour takes place from the 18th – 25th of September.  With Chris Froome taking a well-earned break after a season packed with highlights, Freewheeling favourite Geraint Thomas will lead Team Sky after riding the GP de Quebec and Montreal last week.

Freewheeling is looking forward to seeing Thomas back on the road following his crash whilst riding in a medal winning position at the Olympic road race in Rio.  Catch up with all the pre-race info on the pages of Freewheeling in the coming days!