Froome fury over ‘unsporting’ Nibali
Chris Froome will attempt to make history today fired up by yet more controversy on yesterday’s penultimate Alpine stage of the Tour de France.
Team Sky’s 2013 champion, who will effectively guarantee himself a second yellow jersey as long as he does not lose more than 2min 38sec to Movistar’s Nairo Quintana on today’s penultimate stage of the race to the iconic ski station of
Alpe d’Huez, was spat at by a roadside spectator a few kilometres from yesterday’s finish at La Toussuire.
Froome then engaged in a blazing row with stage winner Vincenzo Nibali, whom he accused of “unsportsmanlike behaviour” after Astana’s defending champion appeared to attack him just as he suffered a mechanical problem towards the top of the Col du Glandon. Nibali went on to win the stage as Froome finished third, 30 seconds behind Quintana.
“I think it’s pretty self-explanatory,” Froome said of their argument. “Going up the Col du Glandon, the very last part of the Col de la Croix de Fer, I had a mechanical problem. A piece of asphalt or small stone got stuck between my brake callipers and my rear wheel. The rear wheel just jammed up. I had to stop and get it out before I could continue.
“It seemed to me that Nibali had the whole climb to attack, but he chose the moment when I had a mechanical to make his move.
“I’ve heard from other riders that he turned, could see I had a mechanical and then attacked. In my opinion it’s very unsportsmanlike, it’s not in the spirit of the Tour de France and it’s definitely not what this race is about.”
Nibali had earlier claimed that he had not realised that Froome was in trouble, accusing the Sky rider of overreacting at the finish.
“I don’t deserve the words he said,” Nibali said. “They are too hard and not right to say. He was very upset with me and I don’t understand his problem.
“When the race is going on, there are problems, like when (Alberto) Contador crashed the other day. It was only three kilometres later we knew. Also, today, I didn’t hear any info on (race radio).”
Froome was not buying that interpretation of events, or that it was comparable to when Nibali and Quintana were caught out behind a crash on the wet and windy second stage in Holland.
“I don’t think either of them was in the leader’s jersey at that point,” he said. “On a crosswinds stage in the rain like that you need to be on the front. If you’re caught in a crash that’s just racing.”
Asked what he said to Nibali at the finish, Froome replied: “I told him exactly what I thought of him.”
The unsavoury incident was merely the latest in a Tour which has taken place to a backdrop of ill-feeling and innuendo.
Richie Porte has been punched and spat at, Luke Rowe has been spat at, while Froome had a cup of urine thrown in his face last weekend while being branded “doped”.
Today’s stage features 21 switchbacks and always plays host to huge, often rowdy, crowds.
“I can’t wait for tomorrow,” Froome said. “It’s the most iconic climb of this year’s Tour de France. It’s the final test in terms of the general classification. I imagine it’s going to be an absolutely amazing atmosphere. I’m in a great position: two and a half minutes advantage. I can’t wait to get up there now.”
Asked about the possibility that he might be targeted again, as he was again yesterday, he admitted he was a bit “on edge”.
“Of course that (spitting) is appalling behaviour. Primarily we’re human beings and then we’re sportsmen. People need to remember that.” (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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