Thursday 23 January 2020

Brailsford slams Tour fans for hostile Sky reception

Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford. Photo: Regis Duvignau/Reuters
Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford. Photo: Regis Duvignau/Reuters

Lawrence Ostlere

Dave Brailsford has issued a scathing critique of French cycling culture, saying the annual abuse aimed at Team Sky has gone too far and has left some of his younger staff members feeling intimidated.

Team Sky have become accustomed to a hostile reception in France as their domination of the race has grown since Bradley Wiggins's victory in 2012, as a combination of weariness with their success and suspicion over their practices have whipped up animosity among spectators.

Already this year their riders have faced booing, verbal abuse, spitting, liquid launched in their direction and even a punch, aimed at enemy No 1 Chris Froome, who is second in the overall standings behind team-mate Geraint Thomas, with Team Sky on course for a sixth Tour de France success in seven years.

Speaking to the media in Carcassonne on the race's final rest day before a decisive week in the Pyrenees, Brailsford launched into a stinging attack on what he called a "French cultural thing".

"I don't think it's going to stop - I'm not too optimistic on that front," he said of their hostile reception around France. "It's challenging but we accept it.

"We just have to make a decision as to how to behave. We're trying not to react. We have a mindset where we don't get distracted by it.

Spitting

"I don't think spitting has a place in professional sport, or in everyday life, but it seems to be the thing that's done here (in France). But we're not going to let it distract us.

"I'm not sure they would have liked their football players to be spat at in Russia, but it's OK to spit on us and our staff.

"I've got young staff - our mechanic's 21. She's a young girl and it's very intimidating for her to be spat it."

Brailsford said that sort of behaviour could eventually drive foreign teams away from the Tour.

"The Tour is promoted as the world's greatest annual international sporting event. If that's what you want to host, and if you want the best riders in the world to come to your country to take part, then maybe treat them with a little more respect."

Brailsford dismissed any concerns over the potential impact of Gianni Moscon's disqualification from the race for punching a fellow rider and re-iterated that his management team would decide on Moscon's future once the Tour was over.

Today's stage from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon features five categorised climbs, including the Col du Portillon, from which the riders will descend 10km to the finish. (© Independent News Service).

  • Tour de France, Stage 16, live, Eurosport 1, 10.15am/ ITV4, 10.15am

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