Brest - Tour de France legend Bernard Hinault says he does
not regret calling for riders to strike in protest at Chris Froome's
participation in the race, he said in an exclusive interview on Thursday.
Five-time champion Hinault made the call two weeks ago amid
the fallout from Froome's "adverse analytical finding" for the asthma
drug salbutamol at last year's Tour of Spain.
Froome was found to have twice the permissible amount of the
drug on his way to winning the title last September.
The Kenyan-born Briton then went on to win the 2018 Giro
d'Italia, becoming the first man to hold all three Grand Tours at once since
Hinault in 1983.
After months of weathering the storm relating to his
salbutamol result, Froome was finally cleared to race the Tour de France by the
sport's governing body the International Cycling Union (UCI) last week.
Ahead of stage six from Brest to Mur-de Bretagne Guerledan,
the 63-year-old Hinault shot down suggestions he may now be regretting his call
for the peloton to strike.
"Regret what I said? Never! Never! All I said was the
truth of the matter, and that's it," said Hinault.
A winner of the 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982 and 1985 Tours de
France, Hinault's outspoken manner and single-minded approach to racing earned
him the nickname 'Le Blaireau' (The Badger).
In a recent interview Hinault called on Froome's rivals to
make a stand.
"If the international authorities don't sanction him
it's up to the other cyclists to shoulder the responsibility," Hinault
"If the racers accept a cheat on the race then that's
Hinault's comments were labelled "irresponsible and
ill-informed" by Team Sky.
Asked if he had had any contact with Team Sky, Hinault said on
Thursday: "There's no risk of that happening, no risk at all, and I don't
really feel like it either."
And he claims "nobody called me to say that what I had
said was wrong", adding: "You have to stand up for yourself in life,
they have forgotten that."
Hinault, meanwhile, has played down Froome's chances of
claiming a record-equalling fifth Tour crown.
"Once we knew he (Froome) would be at the starting
line, he had the same chance of winning as any of the others (the GC
favourites)," Hinault said.
"There is no real favourite, there are four or five of
"Richie Porte was very good last year, and if he hadn't
fallen, who knows?
"Tom Dumoulin hasn't shown his hand yet but he is
capable of winning it too.
"And look at Movistar with their three (key)
riders," Hinault said of Spaniards Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa, and
Colombian Nairo Quintana, who has twice finished runner-up to Froome on the
"If they work out how to use the three of them, you
could easily envisage a win for them."
Amazingly, Hinault remains France's last winner.
As Froome targets a fourth consecutive yellow jersey and
fifth overall, after his maiden triumph in 2013, French hopes lie firmly with
A runner-up place in 2016 who also finished third in 2017,
Hinault said Bardet's chances of escaping from Froome and other key contenders
"Romain has just one chance of winning and that is
(making the difference on) the descents, it's the only place where he is better
than the others," said Hinault.
"On the climbs, in the time-trials, they won't let him