Chris Froome: Of course the salbutamol case has been damaging

Defending champion Chris Froome, Team Sky head Dave Brailsford, and the seven other riders who will support Froome in his bid to win a fifth Tour de France faced the press on Wednesday – with all questions directed to Brailsford and Froome in the wake of him being cleared in his salbutamol case.

Before getting their pre-Tour press conference underway in the Vendée town of Saint-Mars-la-Réorthe, Team Sky played a promotional video for ‘Ocean Rescue’ – an anti-plastic campaign they are supporting with a special-edition team kit and re-branded vehicles.

The waters surrounding the British team, however, still seemed far from clear on the eve of their ninth Tour. Despite being cleared of wrongdoing this week, Chris Froome’s salbutamol case still lingers like a non-degradable plastic bottle.

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Before taking questions from the press, Froome gave a short speech in which he described the upcoming Tour as the “greatest challenge of my career”, touching as well upon the different challenge he has faced since learning of his adverse analytical finding (AAF) last September.

“This has been a very challenging past nine months for me, for my family as well, and for my colleagues, and obviously I’m extremely grateful now that all the facts have been established, and to be able to draw a line under this episode and move on and focus on bike racing again,” he said.

That soon proved slightly optimistic. All eight of Sky’s riders were assembled along the top table, but only Froome and team manager Dave Brailsford were called upon. Of the numerous questions asked, only one concerned the bike race per se.

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