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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 16 July 2018

Chris Froome says 'huge weight' lifted after being cleared for Tour de France

Tour organisers dropped their opposition to Froome racing mere hours after the Swiss-based UCI confirmed it had cleared the four-time Tour champion of doping suspicions

In this file photo taken on July 06, 2017 Britain's Chris Froome arrives on the podium to celebrate his overall leader yellow jersey at the end of the 216km sixth stage of the 2017 Tour de France. Lionel Bonaventure / AFP
In this file photo taken on July 06, 2017 Britain's Chris Froome arrives on the podium to celebrate his overall leader yellow jersey at the end of the 216km sixth stage of the 2017 Tour de France. Lionel Bonaventure / AFP

Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome said Tuesday that being cleared of doping allegations had lifted a "huge weight" from his shoulders, describing the saga as "like your worst nightmare".

The British rider had been barred from taking part in world cycling's biggest race, which gets under way on Saturday, until organisers dramatically lifted the ban on Monday.

Froome, 33, said in a interview he felt dizzy last year when a lawyer from the sport's governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), informed him he had recorded more than the allowed dose of the legal asthma drug Salbutamol during September's Vuelta a Espana.

"It has been like your worst nightmare," said Kenyan-born Froome, speaking to The Times from his apartment in Monte Carlo.

"It was the phone call I never thought I would ever receive.

"Tim Kerrison [his Team Sky Australian coach] was walking around and I told him, 'I can't believe what I just heard'.

"You do everything right then this nightmare. I actually felt dizzy. I climbed off [a turbo trainer] and immediately just started googling to learn what I could about Salbutamol, about thresholds."

Froome won the Vuelta and went on to add the Giro d'Italia this year, storming to victory with a remarkable 80-kilometre breakaway in the mountainous 19th stage that turned a deficit of more than three minutes into a 40-second lead.

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Tour organisers dropped their opposition to Froome racing mere hours after the Swiss-based UCI confirmed it had cleared Froome of doping suspicions.

"These were severe allegations," Froome said. "For an athlete it doesn't get much worse.

"This was a nightmare scenario for any clean athlete. It was challenging to a level I've never experienced before.

"For any athlete, to go through something like this, it can define your career.

"If you've done something wrong, that stays with you forever. So it's a huge weight off my shoulders."

Froome is expected to face a hostile reception from some Tour spectators.

If Froome wins he will become only the third rider in history - along with Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault - to be the reigning champion in all three of cycling's Grand Tours.

Frenchman Hinault, known as the "Badger", said before Froome being cleared that the peleton should go on strike if the British rider starts.

However Froome said he would not give the five-time winner the cold shoulder.

"I can't say anything bad about Bernard," he said. "He's one of the great champions.

"I imagine with age sometimes your wires get a little bit crossed, but if I see him I'll very happily explain it all in a bit more detail ... because he certainly got the wrong end of the stick."