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Sky could boycott Tour de France if ‘French culture’ of attacking riders continues, claims boss Sir Dave Brailsford

SPITTING MAD

Team principal fumed as his riders took a battering around the Tour stages, with one fan being arrested for having punched Chris Froome

Team Sky could boycott the Tour de France in future if organisers do not clamp down on spectators pushing and spitting on their riders, which team principal Sir Dave Brailsford claimed is solely a ‘French thing’.

Sky’s British pair Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome lead the way after stage 15 of the 2018 Tour but have taken a battering all across France, with one fan arrested for punching Froome.

Sky principal Brailsford has blamed ‘French culture’ for the attacks on his riders

Sky principal Brailsford has blamed ‘French culture’ for the attacks on his riders

Sir Dave, 54, launched into an attack on the spectators lining the course’s route, with Sky riders repeatedly raising concerns over their safety with no barriers or fences to protect them.

Speaking on the Tour’s last rest day before Froome and yellow jersey-holder Thomas make their final assault on the 2018 crown, Brailsford said: “I don’t think it’s going to stop, I’m not too optimistic on that front.

“We’re trying to remain dignified, we’re trying not to react and we’re trying not to get distracted by it, but I don’t think spitting and throwing things has a place in professional sport.

“I’m not sure it’s got a place in everyday life but it seems to be the thing that’s done here. It’s a shame but we’re not going to let it distract us.”

Team Sky have been marked men all around France this year

Team Sky have been marked men all around France this year

Froome, whose case for alleged salbutamol was thrown out in the days leading up to the Tour, has been the main target for protestors.

One fan was arrested for punching him on Alpe d’Huez, while another ran into the road to try and push the rider off his bike.

Brailsford claimed the violence was endemic to France, having experienced no such attacks during Froome’s Giro d’Italia triumph in May.

He said: “It’s interesting that we’ve just done the Tour or Italy and Chris’ case was open and the Italians were fantastic. It just seems to be a French thing, like a French cultural thing.

Fans have targeted Froome in particular

Fans have targeted Froome in particular

Froome has had to ride in Thomas’ shadow for much of the Tour, but still sits well-placed in second behind the Welshman

Froome has had to ride in Thomas’ shadow for much of the Tour, but still sits well-placed in second behind the Welshman

“I’m not sure they’d have liked their football players being spat at in Russia, I’m sure there would have been a word or two about that.

“But it’s ok to spit on us, and our staff.

“(Junior press officer) Emma Kennedy is 21, she’s trying to drive around France and it’s very intimidating for her, to be spat at.”

And Brailsford hinted that if the attacks do not stop, Sky could consider their future entry into cycling’s biggest race.

Froome has been chased by protestors despite his salbutamol case being thrown out before the Tour began

Froome has been chased by protestors despite his salbutamol case being thrown out before the Tour began

He continued: “The Tour de France is promoted as the world’s greatest annual sporting event and if you want the best international riders to come to your country then maybe treat them with a little more respect.

“If you don’t want them to come, you can maybe have the Tour de France for French teams, that might work.

“But if you want international teams to come then treat them with the same respect that you’d want your team to be treated when they go to Russia, the World Cup or wherever else.”

Sky rider Gianni Moscon, who complained of feeling ‘scared’ of the waiting fans prior to yesterday’s stage, was then disqualified after appearing to punch fellow rider Elie Gesbert.

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