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French fans should treat Sky with more respect, blasts Brailsford

 

By Ian Parker

Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford took aim at Tour de France spectators who have jostled and spat at his riders this week, asking if they would rather have a race purely for French teams if they do not respect the world's best cyclists.

It is nothing new for Sky to face hostility in France, but the atmosphere has been even darker in the wake of Chris Froome's salbutamol case, in which he was cleared of wrongdoing days before the Tour began.

That verdict has not been accepted by many fans, and significant elements of the French media, and contributed to Froome being slapped and spat at on Alpe d'Huez and doused with an unidentified liquid on Saturday's stage to Mende.

Brailsford said he could not understand why the team only get this reaction in France, given Froome rode and won the Giro d'Italia in May while his case was still open.

"It seems to be a French thing," he said. "Like a French cultural thing. I'm not sure they'd have liked their football players being spat at in Russia (at the World Cup). But it's okay to spit on us and on our staff.

"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, maybe treat them with more respect.

"If you don't want them to come, you can maybe have the Tour de France for French teams."

While incidents of actual violence are of concern, Brailsford said Sky had learned to tune out the boos.

"I don't think it's going to stop," he said. "I'm not too optimistic. We accept it and have to make a decision about how to behave.

"We're trying to remain dignified, not to react and not to get distracted by it."

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