• Christian Prudhomme pictured with Chris Froome during Stage 4 of the Tour (EPA)Source: EPA
Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has blamed the media for the aggression being aimed at yellow jersey holder Chris Froome and Team Sky.
By
Reuters/Cycling Central

20 Jul 2015 - 8:57 AM  UPDATED 20 Jul 2015 - 11:55 AM

Froome had urine thrown at him by a spectator during Stage 14, four days after his Australian team-mate Richie Porte was punched in the ribs during the first mountain stage of the three-week race.

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Team Sky was left fuming after Stage 14 of the Tour de France as yellow jersey wearer Chris Froome reported having a cup of urine thrown at him during the race by a man yelling "doper" at him.
 

Froome said "irresponsible reporting" caused the incidents, a view shared by Prudhomme.

"There is a correlation between what is said in the papers, on TV, on the radio, and what happens by the side of the road," Prudhomme told reporters ahead of Stage 15's 183km ride between Mende and Valence.

Doping suspicions have been aired after Froome humiliated his main rivals in the first Pyrenean stage, with French TV pundit Laurent Jalabert, a former Vuelta winner, saying the Briton's performance made him feel uneasy.

"They set the tone and people believe what they see in the media," said Froome.

"Times have changed, everyone knows that. This isn't the Wild West, that was 10 to 15 years ago. Of course there are still going to be riders who take risks (by doping) in this day and age, but they are the minority.

"It was the other way around 10 to 15 years ago. I was aware that Richie's been punched and spat at, Luke Rowe was spat at, I obviously had urine thrown at me. That's already an outrage, it's unacceptable."

In 2013, a French senate investigation revealed that Jalabert had failed a retroactive test for the banned blood booster EPO in 1998. Jalabert never admitted to doping.

The Frenchman was confronted by British cycling journalist Matt Rendell to respond to critics of his comments that Froome's performances were "verging on the ridiculous". Jalabert, though, said: "I haven't said that, 'verging on the ridiculous'.

"No it's not true. It's the press that's trying to stir things up."

Froome wasn't buying any of it.

Five police officers were seen in front of Team Sky's bus before the start of Stage 15, and while that is not unusual for any team, Sky's staff have expressed concern for their riders both on and off the course.

"The lads are scared," Team Sky sport director Nicolas Portal admitted.

After Stage 15 had been raced and won by German Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal), Froome said: "Today the atmosphere was fantastic."

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Such incidents, however, are not uncommon in cycling, where athletes are particularly exposed as they ride unprotected along roads lined by thousands of fans.

In the second edition of the race, in 1904, Maurice Garin and Lucien Pothier were set upon by four masked men who had jumped out of a car.

In 1975, Belgian great Eddy Merckx was punched by a spectator while climbing up the Puy de Dome.

More recently, Lance Armstrong hired a bodyguard after he said he had received death threats and in 2009, New Zealand's Julian Dean and Spaniard Oscar Freire where shot at with air guns during the 13th stage.

Sometimes, however, the rider is the aggressor.

In 1984, during a Paris-Nice stage, Frenchman Bernard Hinault swung at a protester from a neighbouring shipyard after a crowd of demonstrators encroached onto the road.

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