Froome amazed by support of fellow riders at Ruta del Sol

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But the reaction of other riders suggests that the presence of the four-time Tour de France victor in the five-day race through Andalusia may provoke some resentment in the peloton.

Froome needs miles in his legs to prepare for his bigger objectives: the Giro d'Italia, which starts on May 4, and the Tour de France, starting July 7, where he would be chasing a record-equalling fifth victory.

He will, however, begin his 2018 season when the Ruta del Sol starts in the Spanish town of Mijas today.

"I hope it doesn't get that far but I'm still allowed to race now and I don't see why not", Froome, who competes in Spain's Ruta del Sol this week in his first race since the findings became public in December, told BBC Sport.

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The race itself was not short on drama as Direct Energie's Thomas Boudat took the stage win, crossing the line ahead of Sacha Modolo after the EF Education First-Drapac prematurely celebrated.

Prominent figures within the cycling world have said Froome should stop competing until investigations surrounding the results of drug tests, which came back in September showing he had double the permissible amount of asthma medication in his system, have been concluded. "So it's great to be able to catch up with them in person and see how much support there is out there in the peloton".

International Cycling Union (UCI) president David Lappartient said last month that Team Sky should voluntarily suspend Froome until the investigation is complete.

"We are working as hard as we can to try to get this resolved".

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"It's been a hard period now".

Froome, who won the race on his last appearance in 2015, should be one of the favorites over a course which contains a mountain-top finish on Thursday and ends in a time trial that could have been designed for the 32-year old Briton.

"Nobody's denying it's a challenging situation but equally I think it's only fair at this point that everybody abides by the process, and the process totally allows him to race in this situation and that's what we're doing", Brailsford said.

But Froome said: "The support has been unbelievable and that goes for other riders as well, the support I've received from the peloton has just been incredible".

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"This is the first time since all this happened [the Salubutamol case] that I have seen the guys".

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