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Bradley Wiggins angered by questions about medical package from 2011

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LONDON — With investigations escalating into a mystery medical package dispatched to a race six years ago to treat Bradley Wiggins, the British cycling great’s anger boiled over on Thursday.

Not over the revelation that Team Sky didn’t retain adequate records of his medication.

Nor by the discovery that British Cycling didn’t track the movement of medical supplies.

What incensed Wiggins was the presence of reporters outside his home seeking answers about a package being investigated by the country’s anti-doping agency and a parliamentary committee.

After walking down the driveway and opening a gate, Wiggins confronted a BBC television crew and snapped: “This is my house. It’s a private road. I will call the police.”

Associates pushed the camera away as a reporter asked Britain’s most decorated Olympian and first Tour de France winner if he would “shed some light” on the “mystery package.”

THE PACKAGE

What isn’t disputed is that a package was couriered in 2011 to France with a product for Wiggins as he completed the Criterium du Dauphine.

It’s the ambiguity over the contents and the revelation about the absence of paperwork that, according to sports officials and legislators, is damaging the credibility of a team that trumpeted how it set new standards in cycling for winning cleanly through “marginal games.”

Everything was supposedly monitored, logged, and refined by the Team Sky experts – from riding routines to food and bedding. Just not medicines administered to its star rider a year before he won the 2012 Tour de France.

Team Sky maintains that it was a legal decongestant, Fluimucil, a brand name for a product containing acetylcysteine used for clearing mucus. U.K. Anti-Doping chief executive Nicole Sapstead, though, used a parliamentary committee hearing on Wednesday to reveal that the agency is investigating whether the product was in fact a banned corticosteroid called triamcinolone.

THE LEGALITY

For Wiggins, triamcinolone would be allowed in competition only if a therapeutic use exemption was obtained, as he did three times from 2011 to 2013 – just not for this race. If Wiggins was found to have used triamcinolone at the Criterium du Dauphine without a TUE he could have been banned and not been eligible to race and win the Tour de France the following year.

THE DOCTOR

Team doctor Richard Freeman should have logged Wiggins’ use of an unlicensed product – if it was used – to abide by British medical guidelines. Freeman was due to give evidence to the parliamentary committee on Wednesday but withdrew citing illness. UKAD said Freeman maintained records only on a laptop and didn’t upload the records to share with colleagues as required. Freeman also told investigators that his laptop was stolen in Greece in 2014.

THE LEADERSHIP

At the time the package was flown to the Criterium du Dauphine – carried by an official who said he didn’t ask what it contained – British Cycling was led by the man now in charge of the sport internationally. UCI President Brian Cookson is not available for interview, the organization said, and he did not respond to a tweet asking why British Cycling didn’t log the movement of medical supplies.

British Cycling and Team Sky shared staff, including performance chief Dave Brailsford at the time, and a medical storage facility. That contained “excessive” quantities of triamcinolone if only Wiggins used it or “quite a few people had a similar problem,” UKAD’s Sapstead said.

Jonathan Browning, who was appointed British Cycling chairman last month, said the organization’s medical services processes are being reviewed

“It’s unacceptable that those records were not complete and clear and available,” Browning said.

THE FUNDING

British Cycling is one of the country’s best-funded national bodies from the government and National Lottery. It received 30 million pounds ($37 million) in the Rio de Janeiro Games cycle and will collect another 26 million pounds from the UK Sport agency in the four-year cycle to fund its Tokyo program.

That cash could be at risk if UK Sport loses faith in British Cycling. The body has to abide by “actions plans … as a condition of grant,” UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholls said, adding that it was “shocking” to discover British Cycling dispensed drugs to Team Sky without a license as a wholesaler.

“I’m reassured that British Cycling has acted very quickly to say there will be a review of their medical management policy, actually an independent review of their medical management policy and their record keeping,” Nicholls said on Thursday at the Manchester velodrome where both Team Sky and British Cycling are based.

“What we heard in the select committee was not acceptable in terms of the standard of management of obviously delicate matters.”

THE HONORS

Britain’s Olympic cycling medals: Beijing 2008 (14), London 2012 (12), Rio 2016 (12).

Team Sky’s Tour de France winners: Bradley Wiggins (2012), Chris Froome (2013, 2015, 2016)

Chris Froome happy as Tour de France heads for the mountains

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ANNECY, France – Chris Froome believes the mountains will reveal the true Tour de France contenders as he looks forward to the first of three grueling stages in the Alps.

“I’m feeling good and optimistic about the upcoming stages,” the four-time champion said on Monday, the Tour’s first rest day.

Froome, who is eighth overall after nine stages, is 1 minute, 42 seconds behind yellow-jersey holder Greg Van Avermaet before the first Alpine stage on Tuesday.

Van Avermaet is not expected to be a threat in the mountains, and Froome suggested the Belgian “will find it difficult to hang on tomorrow. It’s a proper climbers stage.”

After an opening week of relatively flat routes, the first significant ascents begin with four categorized climbs as well as the punishing Montee du plateau des Gileres, which features a six-kilometer climb at an incline of 11.2 percent.

“It’s a tough stage. It will definitely start shaping the GC,” Froome said of the general classification.

Sky teammate Geraint Thomas is second overall, 0:43 behind Van Avermaet, meaning the team has two viable options to claim the yellow jersey over the second week of the three-week Tour.

“It’s great for us to have those options to play when it comes down to it, especially looking at some of our rivals who have got two or three options in their team,” Froome said.

“The team around us is such a capable group of guys, and we’re really going to be coming into our element now in the mountains.”

Van Garderen embraces No. 2 role for team at Tour de France

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LA ROCHE-SUR-YON, France – For years, Tejay van Garderen has been the United States’ best hope of winning the Tour de France.

But for this edition of the world’s biggest cycling race, Van Garderen is tasked with doing all he can for teammate Richie Porte to fight for the title.

“It’s different. It’s certainly less pressure, and when you have a leader like Richie it’s a role that is easy to jump into,” Van Garderen said on Thursday, two days before the race starts in western France.

Van Garderen’s first job will be to do his part on the team time trial on Stage 3. A good result by BMC would boost Porte’s chances of ending Chris Froome’s dominance at the Tour.

His next challenge as his team’s No. 2 will be to protect Porte on the climbs in the Alps and Pyrenees where only the hardiest riders can keep up.

Van Garderen, who finished the Tour of California second in May, showed he can protect Porte in the mountains when he helped the Australian win the Tour de Suisse last month by reeling in rivals when they attacked.

“He already performed well in that role, especially in the Tour de Suisse, when (Mikel) Landa and (Nairo) Quintana launched attacks,” BMC sports director Fabio Baldato told The Associated Press. “It’s a new role but he’s well established within the team.”

When acting as BMC’s leader, Van Garderen finished the Tour in fifth place in 2012 and 2014.

In 2015, he was riding in third place and aiming for a spot on the podium in Paris when he fell ill and was forced to withdraw.

Those ascending results generated expectations that Van Garderen could one day become the first American to cleanly win the Tour since Greg LeMond in 1989 and 1990. Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis were later stripped of their Tour titles for having doped.

But when Porte joined BMC in 2016, the American team said Porte and Van Garderen were the co-leaders at the Tour. Porte finished a career-best fifth in the race, while Van Garderen was 29th. Van Garderen skipped last year’s Tour to ride in the Giro d’Italia.

Baldato said it was the 29-year-old Van Garderen who wanted to play wingman this time around.

“He asked to come to the Tour as a support rider. We call him a teammate `di lusso’ (an extra special teammate),” Baldato told The AP. “The pressure that came with being the leader wasn’t easy to handle. Now that he’s free of that pressure he’s got less weight on his shoulders.

“It will free his mind up and make him ride better.”

Porte knows what it means to be a shield-bearer. He was Froome’s ally when he won his first two Tour titles in 2013 and 2015 for Team Sky.

At 33, Porte also knows this may be his last chance to win an elusive Grand Tour. Last year he was in contention for the Tour until he crashed out.

When asked if he would be prepared to take over if Porte again falters, Van Garderen replied with a curt, “I will do what I am told.

“(Porte) is in great shape and he has a good shot to get on the podium in Paris and I am looking forward to helping him to be able to do that.”