JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Defending Giro d’Italia champion Tom Dumoulin said on Thursday that the allegations against fellow competitor Chris Froome were harming cycling and he saw no problem with his rival participating in the event.
Froome is under investigation by the UCI, world cycling’s governing body, over an adverse doping test result after a urine sample showed excessive levels of an asthma medication at last year’s Vuelta in Spain. He has denied any wrongdoing.
“He (Froome) has every right to be here and it’s his choice to be here. It’s not good for cycling in general and not good for him that his case has not been resolved yet,” Dutchman Dumoulin said at the Giro’s launch in Jerusalem.
Froome appeared unperturbed by the repeated questioning about the allegations and said he had managed to maintain his focus on his sport.
“Obviously, it has been challenging the past few months, but I have dealt with it the best I can and tried to stay focused and I feel ready for this,” Froome told Reuters.
The Giro, the Tour de France and Vuelta comprise the world’s three major tours and the Italian race’s “Big Start” in Israel will mark the first time a cycling classic has included stages outside Europe.
The 101st Giro opens with a 9.7-kilometer individual time trial on Friday in Jerusalem followed by road races on the next two days between Haifa and Tel Aviv (167km) and Beersheba and Eilat (229km).
Froome, a four-times winner of the Tour de France, has not competed at the Giro since 2010. The Briton is aiming to be the first rider since 1983 to hold all three major tours concurrently.
The Giro is the biggest and most complex sporting event ever to be staged in Israel, Sports Minister Miri Regev said.
The race’s launch, which included a presentation of the 22 eight-man teams at Jerusalem’s Safra Square, drew thousands of spectators, including cycling enthusiasts and passers-by in a rock concert atmosphere.
Guy Niv, one of two Israeli cyclists competing in the race as part of the Israel Cycling Academy team, spoke of his excitement.
“First time in a grand tour in my home country, it will be really special. When you become a competitive cyclist, you dream about riding at the top level but I never imagined I would also be riding here in my home country,” Niv said.
He does not see a problem with Froome’s participation
“I respect him, he’s a great rider and athlete and we’ll see in a few months when there will be a decision, but until then everything is okay,” he said.
Ori Srulovich, 29, an amateur rider from northern Israel who had come specially to Jerusalem to witness the world’s cycling elite, said he was confident Froome had done nothing wrong.
“I’m sure that if Team Sky are here with Chris Froome, they believe in his innocence, and I also believe that is the case, I wish him all the best,” he said.
Click this link to view the Giro route: tmsnrt.rs/2I4fLUR
Writing by Ori Lewis, editing by Christian Radnedge and Ed Osmond