Chris Froome will ride in the Giro d'Italia this year and try to defend his Tour de France title even if an investigation into his adverse doping test is ongoing, the Briton said as he prepared to launch his season on Wednesday.
"About to head to Ruta del Sol". In a dusty car park in Mijas, 200 metres from the race start, Froome delivered a steely eyed promise that he would prove his doubters wrong.
The four-time Tour de France winner has to explain to cycling's world governing body, the UCI, how he returned double the allowed level of legal asthma drug Salbutamol in his urine during his Vuelta a Espana victory in September.
"This is a process a lot of other riders have gone through and I don't see why I should have different treatment to them", he told them. Cycling's international governing body (UCI) still has to make a ruling on the case and has asked Froome to explain why twice the allowed limit showed up in his sample.
What of riding the Giro and the Tour? Crowds of children, some wearing replica Team Sky Lycra, gathered round him at the finish and he duly signed autographs.
Team Sky and Froome could have opted for a voluntary suspension once informed of the adverse finding because, if a ban is eventually imposed, this credit could have seen the ban backdated to September, allowing him to return to racing earlier.
"The support I have received personally has been amazing but there is a lot of misinformation out there and a lot of opinions of people who don't quite fully understand the process", he added. "It's really quite touching". Whatever the future verdict, Froome can expect to be the center of intense attention, from the media, the fans and cycling professionals in his first race since the news of his test result.
Team principal Dave Brailsford said: "We all recognize that these are difficult circumstances but it's important for all sides that this process is conducted fairly before a final conclusion is reached". I am doing my utmost to ensure that things are resolved as speedily as possible. Sky has not yet submitted the scientific evidence which might justify Froome's abnormal sample. Has he taken more than 16 puffs in that allowable period?
"This is the first time since all this happened [the Salubutamol case] that I have seen the guys".