Not once. Not twice. But three times Team Sky have proved their mettle and the success of their training programme and scientific approach to clean cycling. That Chris Froome, their champion in the yellow jersey this year and in 2013, should have opprobrium poured down on his head throughout this year's Tour, as well as cups of urine, is beyond belief. It has been said that the final climb up Alpe d'Huez is not so much about what one team can inflict on other teams but what each can endure.The whole of the Tour de France is the ultimate endurance test, requiring nerves of steel besides steely bodies. It's hard to grasp the degree of physical, mental, emotional and psychological toughness that is required to compete during those three weeks over 3,360 kilometres. Add to that the physical abuse from the roadside, the challenging press conferences, the insinuations, the allegations in the media, and we had the world's greatest cycling race turned into a psychological drama-thriller of unexpected proportions.
David Brailsford, Chris Froome and the whole of Team Sky exemplified the ultimate grace under undue pressure, keeping calm and carrying on throughout the Tour. The remarkable mental as well as physiological toughness of Chris Froome helped bring him to this moment in his career and to this place in sporting history whilst leading his team to victory. Let it not be forgotten what British Olympic champion Sir Bradley Wiggins had to endure in 2012, the first Briton ever to win the Tour de France, when he and Team Sky first had to defend themselves in the face of the same doping allegations. At the time, the insinuations were disturbing, distressing and annoying and somewhat unexpected and unprepared for, coming straight off the back of the Lance Armstrong revelations. Wiggins had the whole of his career, his achievements and ability as an athlete, the whole of his personal honour questioned, doubted and under scrutiny. At the time, in an article written for The Guardian, he reiterated why he would never dope, but that was not enough to silence the doubters.
Doping in sport and in cycling has a long sad history. But it's now being said more openly that Team Sky's clean cycling is something we can believe in, something British cycling can be proud of and something that is starting to turn the page to a new age in sport.
It was edifying to hear so many British commentators, journalists, team doctors, team-mates and retired cyclists coming out in support of Team Sky including David Millar who stated on ITV that there is "not even a tiny gram of evidence" to support these allegations. Five Grand Tour winners battled it out in one of the best Tours ever seen. British Cycling is seeing a Golden Age: something to believe in. Gary Imlach concluded ITV's coverage of the three week Tour in his inimitable ironic fashion: "If you believe it, celebrate it; if you don't, respectfully submit your evidence to the contrary."
Meanwhile, spare a thought during the celebrations for the 198 riders of 22 teams who started the Tour, and the 160 riders many of whom barely or never get a mention, but whose claim to fame today is that they finished one of the hardest races in one of the toughest sports on earth. The sacrifice, the training, the toughness, the teamwork of all teams of professional cyclists: Respect for the Beautiful Sport of Cycling