Englishman Chris Froome has never tested positive for drugs, but he has been forced to field increasingly tense questions on accusations of doping.
Many of Froome’s fellow competitors agree, including rival Alberto Contador, that Froome is simply better than his rivals. They say that his performance, which has so far been astonishing, is merely down to better training.
Nevertheless, Team Sky has agreed to open their sacrosanct tour bus to inspection to help dispel doping allegations.
Unfortunately for Froome, the allegations coincide with the arrival of disgraced American cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Armstrong, who was stripped of his record seven Tour titles for using performance-enhancing drugs, returns to France for a charity ride on Thursday alongside England football player Geoff Thomas.
Tour organisers would rather Armstrong disappear from the event and although his appearance is without any official Tour authorisation, his return casts a dark shadow.
Stage 12: End of the Pyrénées
Froome starts Thursday’s stage a long way out in front. His nearest rival American Tejay Van Garderen starts the day’s stage almost three minutes behind.
The Englishman’s lead puts him in a commanding position and makes him virtually impossible to catch.
The 195-kilometre stage ends in a particularly nasty climb which makes for a difficult ride. Many Tour commentators describe the landscape as unfriendly and not especially picturesque.
Unless there is a major upset, such as a disastrous crash, puncture or if allegations of doping were proved true, Froome has likely got this year’s Tour sewn-up.
As a good all-rounder and strong mountain climber, Froome’s superior lead will be hard for rivals to chase down.