November 26, 2016 by Irish Peloton
An Inconvenient Truth
Irish journalist David Walsh was interviewed recently by Matt de Neef on the CyclingTips podcast. All the topics you would expect are covered – Armstrong, Team Sky, TUEs, Wiggins, Froome.
It’s well worn ground at this stage but the interview was interesting nevertheless. Not least given the context of Walsh’s stated belief that Chris Froome is a clean rider.
Thus far, there has been no tangible evidence to suggest Froome is not clean. But why Walsh deemed it necessary to publicly declare his belief in him has been a source of bafflement for many. He speaks about having a ‘choice’ on whether to believe in him or not. However, journalistically, beliefs are not a prerequisite. What are a prerequisite are facts, which Walsh was alarmingly loose with throughout the course of the interview.
Walsh takes exception to a question about whether people are right to be skeptical regarding Froome’s lack of results before his breakthrough performance when he finished second in the 2011 Vuelta a Espana.
He seeks clarification that the interviewer shares this scepticism then turns the question back on De Neef and asks:
“Tell me, what did you think of Froome’s performance in the Giro delle Regioni when he came over from South Africa in 2006? What did you make of those performances?”
“I’m not familiar with that performance”
“That’s the nonsense we’re dealing with here.” replied Walsh. “People have reservations but haven’t bothered to find out”
If anyone is interested in finding out more about that race, it actually took place in 2007, not 2006 as stated by Walsh.
He goes on to mention the ‘Russian’ rider who Froome lost out to for the win on Stage 2 of that race. It was actually Grega Bole who won that stage, who is from Slovenia.
At one point Walsh also asks De Neef ‘and how many Grand Tours has [Froome] been in?’ to which the reply is ‘I’m not sure’. Walsh seemingly delights in this saying ‘Yeah. Yeah. Exactly’ as if it is a live illustration of his point that skeptics and cynics don’t know the facts of Froome’s career as well as he does. Walsh’s next sentence aims to give us an answer to his original question on Froome’s Grand Tour participations.
“Before riding the 2011 Vuelta I think the only Grand Tour he’s ridden is that 2008 or 2009 Tour de France, I think it was 2008, with Barloworld”.
Froome did indeed ride the 2008 Tour de France but he also rode the 2009 Giro for Barloworld and the 2010 Giro for Team Sky in their maiden Grand Tour. He was disqualified from the latter for holding on to a vehicle.
While making a point about cynics not knowing the finer details of Froome’s career while clearly not knowing them himself make Walsh look like a fool. But mistakes is what they seem to be and forgivable ones to make in an interview setting.
However, when he began to discuss Froome’s performance in the 2008 Tour de France, Walsh shifted from making simple mistakes to simply being deluded.
“And you look at him in that race on Alpe d’Huez and he’s attacked and he’s away with Denis Menchov. Given that he wasn’t meant to ride that Tour, he literally got the call from his directeur sportif Claudio Corti who called him and said we need you to ride the Tour and this is like two weeks before the race. And he hasn’t been training. He hasn’t been preparing himself. He doesn’t have his road bike. He doesn’t have his cycling shoes. He’s gone home for his mother’s funeral. He comes back from that, he rides the Tour and he attacks on Alpe d’Huez.”
Chris Froome did not attack anybody on Alpe d’Huez.
Denis Menchov did attack, with Carlos Sastre, the eventual winner of the stage, but was quickly caught by the lead group containing the Schleck brothers and Cadel Evans. Not long afterward, Menchov got dropped as did Froome who managed to cling on to Menchov’s wheel for a couple of kilometres until dropping further back, eventually losing over nine minutes to the Russian by the top of the Alpe.
Froome mentions this in his own autobiography The Climb (ghostwritten by David Walsh):
“I rode for a kilometre or two on the wheel of the double Vuelta a Espana champion Denis Menchov, who was weakening. His troubles attracted the cameras and I got into the shots.”
The entire climb up Alpe d’Huez in that 2008 Tour is available to view on YouTube in a variety of languages. It is plainly obvious from looking at the footage that Froome never ‘attacked’ and was never ‘away’ with anyone.
This is not a mistake. This is not a statistic or a race result that can be forgivingly forgotten. This is an impression of a race which Walsh has formed in his own mind based on incidents which didn’t actually happen. This is a delusion.
Walsh goes on to conclude this portion of the interview by saying:
“The people who have reservations [about Froome’s performances], they just haven’t a clue. Anybody who has followed the career of Froome and has a view, well I would say ‘you’ve got a responsibility to just look into his past a little bit more closely.”
If you’re going to risk your journalistic integrity on a rider by claiming you believe he is clean and if you’re going to make a point about getting your facts straight – you’d better get your facts straight.