Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford says his riders didn’t experience fan hostility in other countries. Picture: AFP
Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford says his riders didn’t experience fan hostility in other countries. Picture: AFP

Insane call as Froome fan furore heats up

TEAM Sky boss Dave Brailsford has poured petrol on the fan behaviour flames, claiming roadside hostility at this year's Tour de France is a "French cultural thing".

Sky have been booed and jeered during the race, while Chris Froome has been spat at and pushed by a spectator on the Stage 12 climb up Alpe d'Huez.

The tension surrounding the team stems largely from four-time Tour champ Froome's salbutamol case, which was given the all-clear by WADA on the eve of the race.

But Brailsford, speaking at Sky's rest day press conference on Monday, had no intention of trying to calm the situation, blaming the host nation for the aggression.

"It's interesting. We raced in Italy and Chris's case was open when we were at the Tour of Italy and the Italians were fantastic, to be fair to them. The Spanish, fantastic. It just seems to be a French thing," Brailsford said.

"It's like a French cultural thing really, isn't it? That's it. I'm not sure that they would have liked their football players spat at in Russia (at the World Cup). I'm sure that there would be a word or two about that. But it's okay to spit on us and our staff."

Brailsford raised the name of a young staff member, who was intimidated driving around France as a Sky employee.

"To be spat at … personally, I'd have a bit of an issue if that was going on in my country. But there we go. We'll carry on," he said.

 

Fans have come under fire for the behaviour roadside at the Tour de France. Picture: AP
Fans have come under fire for the behaviour roadside at the Tour de France. Picture: AP

 

And with the race set to return to the mountains with a string of tests in the Pyrenees this week, Brailsford isn't expecting the hostility to let up.

"I don't think it's going to stop. I'm not too optimistic on that front," he said.

"It's challenging, we accept it, and we just have to make a decision as to how to behave. We're trying to remain dignified. We're trying not to react. We're trying to stay in a mindset where we're not distracted by it."

Brailsford's insistence his team would race with dignity came only a day after Team Sky rider Gianni Moscon was booted out of the Tour for swinging a fist at rival rider, Elie Gesbert.

The fact Gesbert is French will further sour Sky's poor reputation with the locals.

"Probably. I don't have an answer to that. It's not going to calm people down," Brailsford conceded.

"But I'd ask them to calm down. At the end of the day … the Tour de France is promoted as the world's greatest annual sporting event and if that's what you want to host and you want the best international riders to come and take part in an international event then maybe treat them with a bit more respect.

"If you don't want them to come you could have a Tour de France for French teams if you want, but if you want international teams to come then treat them with a bit more respect.

"This isn't something new. This is just part of the Tour de France. We know that we were going to get stick from the crowd and get abused. We know that there's not much that can be done about it and that's just part of winning. We'll just keep focused. We've been here before and we're experienced at it. We'll smile and try and win it."

When asked why, as one of 17 non-French teams in the race, Sky are only one's to attract hostility, Brailsford said: "They're not winning, though, are they? You tell me, I don't know."



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