Froome: I would never cheat to win Tour

Britain's Chris Froome has been cleared of any anti-doping violation by the International Cycling Union

The defending champion Chris Froome has expressed his relief at being able to pursue a fifth Tour de France title after being cleared by cycling's governing body of any wrongdoing in a doping case.

The four-time Tour de France victor tested positive for excessive levels of salbutamol during last year's Vuelta a Espana but the World Anti-Doping Agency concluded Froome's results did not constitute an adverse analytical finding.

Both Froome and Brailsford faced questions as to whether they would release any of the evidence they submitted in the rider's defence, but Brailsford said that was not up to the team.

"In terms of safety I obviously would encourage fans of the sport to come watch the race, and if you are not necessarily a Chris Froome fan or a Sky fan, come to the race and put a jersey on of another team you do support".

"It is disappointing it got leaked and some people were quick to make judgements".

After months of silence, the UCI said Froome's result did not represent an adverse finding, which could have led him to be stripped of his Vuelta victory, and a suspension.

Tour organisers ASO had banned Froome from the race but the World Anti Doping Agency and the International Cycling Union delivered a long-awaited verdict on a September 2017 test of the Briton that cleared his name.

With the anti-doping investigation behind him, if perhaps not all of its ramifications, Froome's next challenge is trying to become the first man to do a Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998 - a mission that begins with stage one from Noirmoutier-en-l'Ile to Fontenay-le-Comte on Saturday.

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UCI chief David Lappartient has called upon the public to treat Froome fairly and respectfully.

Froome admitted the investigation has "undoubtedly been damaging" but said he is glad to "draw a line in the sand and move on".

"Doing the Tour de France and the Vuelta (a Espana) previous year taught me an incredible amount about how to manage my training".

"I call on all spectators to protect all the athletes and to respect the judicial decision so that Chris Froome can compete in a safe and serene environment like all other athletes".

It came as French star Romain Bardet called for calm.

"I've always been impressed by the way he is off the bike", Thomas said. "So there is that element of risk so to speak".

Froome, who is aiming to win a record-equalling fifth Tour, insisted he was not anxious by the backlash at Sky's pre-race media event on Wednesday.

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