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TOUR DE FRANCE

Tour de France: Cycling chief tells Sky team boss to put the brakes on French bashing

World cycling chief David Lappartient called on Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford to stop fanning the flames after the Englishman blamed abuse of his team and riders on a "French cultural thing".

Tour de France: Cycling chief tells Sky team boss to put the brakes on French bashing
Photo: AFP

“He's not doing his riders any favours,” Lappartient, the French president of the International Cycling Union (UCI), told AFP before the Tour de France's 16th stage from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon.

“He (Brailsford) is sitting in a car or a bus. I much prefer the attitude of Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas, whose reactions have been a lot more calm.”

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

Froome, in particular, has endured more abuse than his Welsh teammate.

The four-time champion was the subject of an investigation into why a sample from his 2017 Tour of Spain victory revealed twice the permitted amount of the asthma drug salbutamol.

Banned from racing by organisers — a decision welcomed in France — Froome was allowed to race after the UCI dropped its case against him.

Brailsford, who has previously been questioned by a British parliamentary inquiry following allegations Sky had breached ethical guidelines by abusing the legal use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) for their riders, hit out at treatment of his team on Monday.

He claimed Sky had only been abused by fans in France, and not those at the Giro d'Italia, which Froome won last May.

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

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

Lappartient added: “I can understand he (Brailsford) is annoyed the public are not passionate about his team and that they've been whistled.

“But that's no reason to hit out at the French public. Hasn't Mister Brailsford noticed it's not just French people on the side of the road?

“The UCI is clearly concerned by the security of riders. The supporters who get totally carried away, a very small minority, have to understand that all riders have to be respected, including Chris Froome.

“He (Brailsford) should not be making this about nationality. It's pointless, and he mustn't forget everything that France and the Tour de France have given him.”

Team Sky have won five of the past six yellow jerseys on the Tour, beginning with Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Froome in 2013 and 2015-2017.

And the British outfit, who pledged they would “race clean” and “win clean” when they were founded, are on the verge of another.

Thomas finished the drama-filled 16th stage — halted temporarily as national gendarmes cleared protesting farmers and bales of hay from the route — with his 1min 39sec lead on teammate Froome intact.

Yet the straight-talking Welshman appeared to play down Brailsford's claims when he said Sky did not “feel under threat” from rowdy fans.

“Yeah, we felt safe,” said Thomas after finishing nearly nine minutes behind stage winner Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step).

“Obviously on some of the climbs not everyone is a fan of ours.

“We don't feel threatened at all. It's just not the best atmosphere sometimes.”

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SPORT

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.

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