Sunday 24 September 2017

Tour de France 2015: Chris Froome has urine thrown in face and branded 'doped' by roadside spectator

Current race leader describes actions of individual as unacceptable, blaming "irresponsible reporting of race" by certain individuals who "know who they are"

A fan encourages Team Sky rider Chris Froome, the overall leader's yellow jersey holder, and Movistar rider Nairo Quintana.
A fan encourages Team Sky rider Chris Froome, the overall leader's yellow jersey holder, and Movistar rider Nairo Quintana.

Tom Cary

TEAM Sky have been to see the ASO, the organisers of the Tour de France, to impress upon them the gravity of what they see as a growing threat to their riders' safety, with Sir Dave Brailsford describing Saturday's incidents as "disgusting".

Chris Froome, the current race leader, was branded "doped" and had a cup of urine thrown in his face during the 14th stage from Rodez to Mende, while Richie Porte and Luke Rowe were both spat at.

Another Facebook user, Cyril Kointz, threatened to break Froome's legs, claiming that he would target the 2013 champion on the Pra-Loup climb in the Alps next week. Saturday's incidents come just days after Porte was punched by a spectator on the climb of La Pierre-Saint-Martin.

Froome has blamed the "irresponsible reporting" on this year's Tour by certain sections of the media, with his wife Michelle specifying the French television pundits Cedric Vasseur and Laurent Jalabert, both former riders with links to doping, as well as the French sports daily L'Equipe.

Mrs Froome also named the former Festina coach Antoine Vayer and Ross Tucker, a South African sports scientist. Both have questioned Froome's performance data in recent days, insinuating that he might be doping.

Sky are understood to be taking the threat of further incidents extremely seriously, with Brailsford saying last night that the ASO "need to do something".

Nicholas Roche is a member of the Sky team.

Sporting director Nicolas Portal admitted that his riders should be "scared" about possible violence.

“There’s nothing they can do — there is just a barrier and nothing else on the road [to stop anyone]," Portal said. "Anyone can cross the road and punch someone."

"We have mentioned it but it's hard," the Welshman said. "You can tell the organisers and Froomey can show them the tweets [he has been receiving] but there are 15km climbs [coming up] and it is hard to police. Hopefully they will do all they can."

Thomas added that Sky were the victims of their own success. "They loved us last year when we were losing," he said of the crowds. "But I'd rather be winning and get booed. For me it just gives me extra motivation. If people come out to boo, whatever; use it as motivation to piss them off even more.

"If people start hitting and stuff that is a different matter. You'd never see that at Old Trafford or Wimbledon. This is the biggest bike race in the world. It's the pinnacle of the sport. People messaging Froomey and saying they are going to throw wee on him or hit him with a stick? Anything can happen [on the road], there is nothing to stop people doing that.

"It's everywhere. And it's not just us who are like 'come on, what's this about?'. A lot of the riders have noticed."

Thomas said that ex-dopers such as Michael Rasmussen, who have been sceptical of Sky, knew no other way. "They are cheats and always will be cheats," he said. "It's a shame the media give them a platform. Guys listen to these commentators and take what they say as gospel. That is not fair. Look at [Lotto-Soudal's] Tony Gallopin - I'm not saying he has done anything wrong but he is performing out of his skin and no one accuses him of anything."

Froome described the incident with the urine as "a bit of a dampener" but stressed that it was only a minority of spectators who were causing a problem.

"I saw the guy," he said. "It was on a drag about 50km-60kms into the race. I was boxed in a little bit on the left. I saw this guy just peering around and as I got there he just launched this cup towards me. There's no mistake it was urine."

He added: "I certainly wouldn't blame the public for this. It really is the minority of people out there who are ruining it for everyone else. I would blame some of the reporting on the race, that has been very irresponsible. It is not all the media.

"It's no longer the riders who are bringing the sport into disrepute now. It's those individuals and they know who they are.

"I'm not scared about this. I just hope it doesn't interfere with the racing."

Incidents such as yesterday's are hardly uncommon although it is rare for a team to be targeted in such a way. In 2013, Mark Cavendish had urine thrown at him, while in the same year Peter Kennaugh was punched. In 1975, a fan famously punched Eddy Merckx on the Puy de Dome climb. The five-time champion ended up losing that Tour to Frenchman Bernard Thevenet, ending his period of dominance.

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