Chris Froome remains confident the reasons for his adverse analytical finding for asthma medication salbutamol will become clear, after being named in Team Sky’s line-up for the five-day Ruta del Sol.
The Andalucian race will be Froome’s first of the season and therefore first since it became apparent he could be facing a ban. An in-competition urine test during the 2017 Vuelta a Espana found he had twice the permitted limit of salbutamol in his system.
Froome has maintained his innocence since – insisting he upped his dosage of medication on advice from his team doctor, after struggling ahead of the stage in question, but did so within the WADA limits.
And with the Giro-Tour double remaining his prime target for the 2018 season, the Team Sky rider will now start his racing campaign – despite arguments from some that he should sit out until the investigation has been concluded.
“I’m confident that we will be able to get to the bottom of what has happened and I’m working hard with the team to do that," Froome said in a Team Sky press release.
“Obviously I understand that this situation has created a lot of uncertainty. I completely get why there has been so much interest and speculation.
“I hope that people will appreciate there are limits to what I can say whilst the process is still ongoing but no one is keener than me to move things forward as quickly as possible.
“I have put in a hard training block in January. It’s been good to be out on my bike and to get the miles under my belt.
“It’s been a couple of years now since I was last at Ruta del Sol. It’s a race I’ve enjoyed in the past and so I’m looking forward to going back there."
Meanwhile, Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford insists the team are working hard to resolve the ‘complex situation’ as soon as possible.
“We all recognise these are difficult circumstances but it’s important for all sides that this process is conducted fairly before a final conclusion is reached," he said.
“It is a complex situation but we’re working as hard as we can with Chris to resolve things as soon as possible."
Since news of his AAF was revealed, Froome has mostly been training in South Africa – as revealed by his Strava account, which logged some of his monster efforts to get back up to race pace after the off-season.
The Ruta del Sol runs from February 14 to February 18, and this year’s race will be Froome’s first appearance since he won a stage and the overall title ahead of Alberto Contador in 2015.
The 2015 race is the only one in the last six years not to have been won by Alejandro Valverde and the Movistar man – who beat Contador by a single second last year – is set to defend his title again.