• Team Sky Principal Sir David Brailsford at the rest day press conference (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
Team Principal for Team Sky Sir Dave Brailsford hit out at at the French public and race organisers over the wave of physical and verbal abuse received by team and staff members during the race.
By
Cycling Central

24 Jul 2018 - 8:25 AM  UPDATED 24 Jul 2018 - 8:31 AM

Team Sky have been on receiving end of a consistent stream of abuse from the roadside fans at the 2018 Tour de France. It comes in the wake of a decision by the Union Cycliste International (UCI) to clear of guilt in an adverse analytical finding of Salbutamol in Chris Froome's urine sample in the 2017 Vuelta a Espana. 

Froome had been racing in 2018 under a cloud of suspicion, including a successful campaign at the Giro d'Italia, where he won the race late with a stunning attack over the Colle delle Finestere.

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Brailsford went on the attack over the treatment the squad has received at the hands of the public at the Tour de France.

"It's interesting,' said Brailsford. "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."

“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. I'm sure that there would be a word or two about that. But it's okay to spit on us and our staff."

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The public antipathy towards Sky hasn't stopped at spitting, with one fan on Alpe D'Huez arrested after hitting Froome during Stage 12. With the race set to progress into the Pyrenees after the rest day, Brailsford indicated he didn't think that the public's hostility was going to change. 

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

"Equally, I don't think that spitting has a place in the sport. I'm not sure it has a place in everyday life, really. It seems to be the thing that's done here. It's a shame but we're not going to let it distract us.”

Further drama has engulfed the squad, with domestique Gianni Moscon disqualified by the commissaires for hitting French rider Elie Gesbert (Fortuneo-Samsic) during Stage 15. The Italian issued a brief contrite statement via Team Sky's social media channels and hasn't been available for further comment.

Brailsford was asked directly if he thought the Moscon incident might inflame public sentiment.  

"Probably. I don't have an answer to that. It's not going to calm people down. I'd ask them to call down.

"At the end of the day, if you want to host… the Tour de France is promoted as the world's greatest sporting annual 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."

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The booing and abuse isn't a new experience for Team Sky at the Tour de France. There have been similar receptions for the squad and Chris Froome in the past, without the current spur of being cleared at the eleventh hour to race for using a controlled substance. 

"This isn't something new," said Brailsford. "This is just part of the Tour de France. We know that we're going to get stick, that we're 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."

Race leader Geraint Thomas and Froome head into Stage 16 sitting in first and second respectively on the general classification.