ROME (AP) Now that Chris Froome has wrapped up the Giro d’Italia title, his focus will quickly switch to matching the record with a fifth Tour de France title – unless a doping case gets in the way.
Froome is racing under the cloud of a potential ban after a urine sample he provided at the Spanish Vuelta in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol that was twice the permitted level.
Froome maintains he has long struggled with asthma.
“I know I’ve done nothing wrong,” he said after lifting the Giro trophy Sunday .
“Obviously the next challenge for me has got to be the Tour de France,” Froome added. “I’m already thinking about it.”
Still, it remains unclear when the International Cycling Union will rule on the case, which could result in a lengthy ban.
“We’ve been focused on the race here and we’ll look at that in the weeks to come,” Team Sky director Dave Brailsford told The Associated Press.
No rider has achieved the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998.
“I’ve got to celebrate what an amazing victory this was but I’m definitely going to keep things tidy tonight thinking about recovering from this,” Froome said. “I really think it’s possible.”
There are six weeks between the Giro and Tour, so Froome will need to carefully calibrate the balance between rest, recovery and training.
“There’s a difference between physical and mental rest and switching off completely,” Brailsford said. “The trick here is to stay in the same gear but obviously you got to recover and then get fresh enough to be able to go again. Switching off totally and relaxing totally is not the way to do it.”
With one more Tour title, Froome will match the record held by Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.
Lance Armstrong had won seven Tour titles but was stripped of them all for doping.
With the Tour starting a week later than usual because of the soccer World Cup in Russia, Froome has the luxury of extra time to prepare.
Sky sporting director Nicolas Portal said Froome would likely follow the Giro with one week of rest, then a training camp at altitude followed by high-intensity training.
The Tour runs July 7-29 and Froome plans to inspect some of the course before it starts.
“We’ve got a few more (stages) to do, then obviously we want to work a little bit on the team time trial and we’re probably going to go through the cobbles again,” Brailsford said. “There’s a bit of work to be done.”
Besides the usual mountain stages, this year’s Tour features a team time trial in Stage 3, a 35-kilometer (22-mile) route starting and ending in Cholet in western France.
Stage 9 could also be tricky, with 15 treacherous cobblestone sections: the highest number since the 1980 Tour, with nearly 22 kilometers (13.6 miles) altogether.
“He’s pretty confident about it, actually,” Brailsford said. “He’s happy on the dirt, he’s happy on a mountain bike and I think he’ll be happy on the cobbles.”