‘It’s a French cultural thing’: Angry Team Sky chief Brailsford blasts Tour de France abuse

Team Sky chief Dave Brailsford hit out at Tour de France organisers on Monday for failing to stop "intimidating" abuse of his riders and staff saying that if they "don't want international teams to come, they can have a Tour de France for French teams."

'It's a French cultural thing': Angry Team Sky chief Brailsford blasts Tour de France abuse

With Welshman Geraint Thomas in the yellow jersey and four-time champion Chris Froome in second place at 1min 39sec, Sky are in an optimal position as they head into the Pyrenees for three consecutive stages starting Tuesday.

But the British outfit's bid to win the French race for the sixth time in seven years is not sitting well with some fans. 

Amid a general feeling of suspicion surrounding Sky and their sheer domination of the race, Froome has been spat at, Thomas has been booed off the podium and some of Sky's staff have also faced abuse during the opening 15 stages.

Brailsford was questioned by a British parliamentary inquiry following allegations Sky had breached ethical guidelines by abusing the legal 
use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE's) for their riders.

The parliamentary report said Brailsford's Team Sky had crossed an “ethical line” by using permitted medication to enhance the performance of Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins.

Brailsford, whose performance in front of the parliamentary committee was described as “extraordinary” said did not expect the abuse on the Tour de France to stop.

But he claimed the organisers' inability to step in and take effective measures against the haters had compromised the race's billing as the “the  world's greatest annual sporting event”.

“The Tour de France is promoted as the world's greatest annual sporting event. If that's the case, then maybe treat it with a bit more respect,”  Brailsford said on the rest day Monday.

“If you don't want international teams to come, you can have a Tour de France for French teams. That's the way I see it really.” 

He added: “We're trying to remain dignified, we're trying to not get distracted by it.

“I don't think spitting and throwing things really has a base in professional sport, nor in everyday life.”

Sky, though, started the race under a cloud.

Froome was initially barred from starting his title defence by organisers because of the suspicion surrounding his “adverse analytical finding” for the  asthma drug salbutamol at the Tour of Spain last year.

The Kenyan-born Briton had double the permitted amount of the drug in his sample when he won the race in 2017.

Yet days before the Tour, the International Cycling Union (UCI) cleared Froome to race.

Brailsford said: “Chris's case was open when we raced in Italy. And they were fantastic, the Italians (fans).

“It seems to be the thing that's done here. It just seems to be a French thing. A French cultural thing really.”

He added: “I'm not sure they would like to have seen their (France) football players being spat at (the World Cup) in Russia.

“I'm sure there would have been a word or two about that. But it's okay to spit at us and our staff? It's very, very intimidating.

“It's a shame, but we're not going to let it distract us.”

Sky's victory bid was potentially dented when the team lost Italian rider Gianni Moscon on Sunday after he was thrown off the race for striking 
Frenchman Elie Gesbert of the Fortuneo team.

Brailsford admitted the incident is unlikely to get fans on their side. 

“It's certainly not going to calm people down,” he said.

But he added: “It's not acceptable for a rider to do that. I agree with the decision of the race commissaries.

“It's impact on the team overall means that some of the riders will have to do a bit more work.”

Member comments

  1. It seems that Team Sky has its own set of rules. They are caught doping, behaving like thugs, and whatever else they do that is unethical and nothing happens to them. Froome should have been banned as it would have happened to any other rider caught cheating. Team Sky deserves thatever the fans think appropriate to express their disgust with this bunch.

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Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

MAP: Details of 2022 Tour de France (and Denmark) revealed

Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.