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Quintana fans flames over Froome's hostile reception

 

By Robert Jones

Nairo Quintana appeared to stir up his rivalry with Chris Froome ahead of the Tour de France after the defending champion was booed by French crowds on Thursday night.

Team Sky's Froome got a hostile reception at the official team presentation in La Roche-sur-Yon but Quintana yesterday expressed only so much sympathy.

"It's not pleasant, it is not good for our sport," he said. "We hope that people will avoid doing it. But sometimes you reap what you sow."

On Monday, Froome was cleared of wrongdoing in the salbutamol case which has hung over him since his La Vuelta win last September, becoming public by means of a leak in December.

However, the minds of many fans had long been made up about the four-time Tour winner, who goes into this year's race holding all three Grand Tour jerseys and seeking to become the first man to do the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998.

Quintana, who finished second to Froome in the 2013 and 2015 Tours and was third in 2016, is chief among those trying to stop that happening.

However, he said it was good for the race that Froome will be taking part - with organiser ASO dropping an attempt to block him from starting once the UCI announced their decision on Monday.

"For us it is neither better nor worse," he said. "We always do our race and preparation, and there will always be a rival to fight with. It's better he is here and his situation has been resolved. Now we move forward."

Quintana is part of a three-pronged attack from Movistar, who also have Alejandro Valverde and Mikel Landa eyeing the general classification.

Landa was part of the Sky team that helped Froome win the title 12 months ago before leaving in search of his own opportunities.

Asked about the booing of Froome, Landa said: "It's sad. There is more and more rivalry and these extremes are reached. In this age of social networks people love you more and some people hate you more."

Dan Martin, meanwhile, is refusing to set himself specific targets.

The Irishman raced to sixth overall in last year's Tour despite suffering two broken vertebrae in his back in a stage-nine crash.

That begs the question what the UAE Team Emirates rider could achieve if he can make it to Paris without incident.

"I don't feel the need to put a number on it," he said. "The goal will just be to stay healthy.

"The main thing to come out of last year was the belief and confidence it gave me."

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