Race leader Chris Froome is known for having a polite manner in the Tour de France but there was a definite edge of anger in his responses to the media at the end of stage 19 on Friday.
Froome was irked by the attack of 2014 race winner Vincenzo Nibali, who jumped clear on the Col de la Croix de Fer climb, approximately 60 kilometres from the finish. That normally wouldn’t be an issue, but the surge happened at the same time that Froome was forced to stop due to a bike issue.
“Going up the Col du Glandon, the very last part — [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,” he said after the stage.
“Obviously the rear wheel just jammed up and I had to stop and get it out before I could continue.
“It just seemed to me that Nibali had the whole climb to attack but he chose the moment when I had my mechanical to make his move.”
Nibali denied the claim after the line. “When I turned my head back it was because I was looking for teammate [Tanel] Kangert,” he said.
“As a team we had decided to accelerate on the Croix de Fer anyway. There has been other crashes in the past and people haven’t waited for me, like at the 2010 Giro d’Italia stage to Montalcino or everyone knows the Schleck/Contador incident in the 2010 Tour de France. There’s absolutely no rule for that.”
Froome said that he received verification that the Italian’s actions were deliberate.
“I’ve heard from other riders that he turned, could see I had a problem, and then attacked,” he said. “Obviously that, in my opinion, is very unsportsmanlike. It’s not the spirit of the Tour de France and it’s definitely not what this race is about.”