Relieved Froome ready to focus on Tour bid

Chris Froome said he was always confident he would be cleared of wrongdoing

With the latest edition beginning on Saturday, five days after the International Cycling Union finally ruled Froome had won last year's Spanish Vuelta cleanly, the four-time Tour victor offered an alternative way for skeptical fans to show their distrust.

"It would be insane to say it hasn't been [damaging]", said Froome.

Froome will be supported by a typically strong Team Sky squad in France, and appeared at Wednesday's press conference alongside team-mates Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe, Wout Poels, Michal Kwiatkowski, Egan Bernal, Jonathan Castroviejo and Gianni Moscon. "That would be my advice".

A test taken during the 2017 Vuelta a Espana showed a larger-than-permitted dose of salbutamol in Froome's system, leading to a lengthy inquiry into the British rider.

Froome said that he had been cleared of wrongdoing "after nine months of meticulous analysis" of the so-called adverse analytical finding (AAF).

Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford praised Chris Froome's attitude throughout the International Cycling Union (UCI) investigation into a doping sample, insisting his lead rider deserves a lot of credit.

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His use of asthma medication has been well documented and he often uses inhalers during races. The online advocates for violence have called for actions against the rider, despite having been cleared by the UCI and the World Anti-Doping Agency for the Salbutamol case.

That leaves them already facing a yawning gap to those GC hopefuls who managed to avoid trouble, with Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida), Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates), Bob Jungels (Quick-Step Floors), Rigoberto Uran (EF Education First-Drapac), Mikel Landa and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) among those in the front group. "But I'd also like to think that now the facts have been established people can make up their own minds".

"Of course it has been damaging", he said when asked about his reputation. "As it is I'm now happy to draw a line in the sand and move on".

"(Froome) has the right to operate in a safe environment. "I have heard calls, sometimes completely irrational, for violence on the Tour de France - I cannot accept that".

It came as French star Romain Bardet called for calm. "That's just something you deal with in the moment". "So there is that element of risk so to speak".

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