Chris Froome has claimed that some media reporting is indirectly to blame for attacks on Team Sky, suggesting that incidents involving himself and Richie Porte are down to some unnamed individuals reporting on the race.
The Tour leader spoke at length on the topic after the end of stage 14 to Mende and drew a direct connection between reports written about the race and the actions of individual fans.
“About 50, 60s kilometres into the race, a spectator threw a small cup of urine at me while shouting dopé [doped] at me,” he said.
“It was on a drag. I had some team-mates around me and they also saw the incident. I was boxed in a little bit on the left so I couldn’t really move away from the fans.
“I saw this guy just peering around and I thought, ‘that looks a bit strange.’ As I got there, he just launched this cup towards me and said, ‘dopé’ like that. Make no mistake, it was urine.
“Obviously I am extremely disappointed with that, I feel that is unacceptable on so many different levels.”
Froome said that he and the other riders in the bunch are professionals and work very hard to do what they do.
“For someone to come and disrespect us like that, that is not on. That is not in the name of sport, that is not why we are here,” he said.
“I certainly wouldn’t blame the public for this. It really is a minority of the people out there who are ruining it for everyone else. But I would blame some of the reporting on the race which has been very irresponsible. Having said that, those individuals know who they are and they are individuals.”
The Briton clarified that he was not faulting all aspects of the media. “A lot of the reporting has been fantastic on this race. It has been about the race, which is the way it should be,” he said.
“But obviously with my victory a few days ago and the way the team has been riding, I think there has been a lot of very irresponsible reporting out there. And that is unacceptable also.
“It is no longer the riders who are bringing the sport into disrepute now, it is those individuals. And they know who they are.”
Laurent Jalabert, who was found to have used EPO during his cycling career in retrospective testing (but never admitted to it), was confronted by ITV journalist Matt Rendell about his statements made regarding Chris Froome at the 2015 Tour de France
To which Chris Froome took exception:
.@JalabertLaurent if you’re going to deny making statements about me maybe you should remember that you’re being recorded on Live TV/Radio
— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) July 19, 2015
Several historic incidents show interference from fans
Cycling is arguably the most exposed sport in the world, with fans far closer to the competitors. Most other sports have considerable distance, thus making it next to impossible for spectators to interfere.
Cycling is different, and there has been a long history of third parties getting involved in a regrettable way.
Way back in 1904 the second edition of the Tour de France was plagued with incidents. On stage one, the leading riders Maurice Garin and Lucien Pothier were attacked by four masked men who emerged from a car and set upon them.
On stage three 200 fans tried to prevent local rider Antoine Fauré’s rivals from chasing him, with one rider being knocked unconscious and receiving broken fingers. Race officials had to fire shots in the air to break up the trouble.
Nails were also strewn along the course on several stages, causing mass punctures.
In 1975 Eddy Merckx was punched by a spectator while climbing the Puy de Dome. More recently, Lance Armstrong employed a bodyguard [later used by Cadel Evans] and said that he had received death threats.
He claimed that one of those threats came before the Alpe d’Huez time trial in 2004. He said afterwards that there was an armed police officer in the team car behind him as he did that climb, ready to intervene if anything had happened.
During the 2009 Tour de France Julian Dean and former world champion Oscar Freire were injured when an unknown person fired a pellet gun at them.
In 2013 Mark Cavendish had urine thrown at him in the Mont Saint Michel time trial, one day after he and the Dutchman Tom Veelers collided in the finishing sprint in Saint Malo.
Veelers fell heavily but race officials cleared Cavendish form blame.
In this year’s Tour, Froome’s team-mate Porte said that he was punched on stage ten of this year’s race.
Asked if he believed that something had changed in the sport, Froome again blamed some of the reports about the event.
“I wouldn’t say something has changed, I would say it is the tone that is set by some of the irresponsible people reporting on the race. They set that tone to people and obviously people believe what they see in the media,” he said.
“And let me stress that it really is a minority of the people out there who would be booing and doing this kind of stuff…I mean, Richie Porte got punched a few days ago and then the incident today.
“It is just not on, it is not on. On that note, I just want to thank the thousands upon thousands of supporters who we have had up there, not just supporting us but supporting the race in general, supporting all the riders. It has been magnificent out on the road, really the support has been tremendous.
“But unfortunately it is a few individuals who are ruining it for everyone else.”
“This is the legacy that has been handed to us”
Froome was asked if he feared for his safety, but he denied that he was scared. He said that he simply hoped that the racing wasn’t interfered with and that it didn’t affect he outcome of the Tour.
“I am staying extremely focussed on my job that I am here to do. I am not going to let anything throw me off this year,” he said.
He also said that it didn’t make him regret taking the yellow jersey.
“If this is part of the process that we have to go through to get the sport to a better place, obviously I am here, I am doing it,” he said. “I am not going to give up the race because a few guys are shouting insults at us or whatever.”
However while he lays primary blame at some aspects of media reporting, he also acknowledged that the perception of riders has been influenced by a long history of cheating in the sport. Many of those watching the sport have been let down by scandals, including the Lance Armstrong affair.
“Unfortunately this is the legacy that has been handed to us by the people before us, people who have won the Tour only to disappoint fans a few years later,” he accepted.
“But that is the unfortunate position that we are in. But I really feel as a peloton…obviously I can’t speak for every rider in the peloton, but I certainly feel myself… I know I am clean, I know my…. [pauses] …I know I am clean, I know what I have done to get here.
“Of course it is disappointing. But what can we do? I feel from the riders’ point of view we are doing the right things. We are trying to speak up about clean cycling. We are trying to change that image. But unfortunately due to some of that reporting, being so irresponsible, that negative image is still being portrayed to the public.”