Time to move on, says Froome as Tour prepares for protests
Chris Froome has urged fans attending the Tour de France not to "bring negativity" to the race, adding that he wants to "draw a line in the sand and move on" from his salbutamol controversy.
His comments came as it was announced by Tour de France security chiefs that more than 30,000 agents will be deployed to protect riders during the Tour de France and UCI president David Lappartient called on spectators to "respect the judicial decision".
Fears that Froome might be targeted by roadside spectators at this year's Tour, which begins in the Vendee region of western France on Saturday, have increased in the last few days as the controversy over his case reached a head.
Tour organisers ASO launched a late bid to block the Team Sky rider from competing, worried that their event might be brought into disrepute. But their attempt was rendered obsolete by the UCI, who abruptly closing the nine-month case against the British rider on Monday morning.
That announcement only hardened anti-Team Sky and anti-Froome sentiment in some quarters, however, with many of the opinion that money and expensive lawyers had won the day rather than justice.
Speaking to a packed media conference last night, three days before the Grand Depart, Froome said he could understand ASO's motives in trying to protect the image of their race. But he added that he hoped things would not get out of hand on the roads of France.
"Support the race in a positive way, don't bring negativity," Froome said. "My advice to anyone who doesn't like Chris Froome or doesn't like Sky is to come and watch the race with some other shirt, of someone you do like, and support the Tour in that way."
He added: "I can understand ASO's position. But things finally worked out and I'm free to race now. Now I just want to draw a line in the sand and move on."
In recent years Sky's riders have been punched and spat at, while Froome allegedly had a cup of urine thrown at him in 2015 by a spectator who shouted "Doper!" as he passed.
In a post on his Twitter account, Lappartient said the UCI's decision should be respected, as should "all riders, including Chris Froome".
"I have heard calls, sometimes completely irrational, to violence on the Tour de France," said the president of cycling's world governing body.
"I cannot accept that and I call on all spectators to protect all the athletes and to respect the judicial decision so that Chris Froome can compete in a safe and serene environment like all other athletes."
Tour de France security chief Pierre-Yves Thouault said that he shared Lappartient's concerns but was ready to unleash a huge security operation to police the 10-12 million fans expected to turn up to watch the race this year.
"There will be 23,000 police and 6,000 firemen," he said.
"We are concerned with mountain-top finishes. But we will not be focusing more on one team than on any other." (© Daily Telegraph, London)