Luke Rowe says the incident with a French fan prior to Tour de France stage 5 was not a big deal, that there was no malicious intent.
Rowe was spotted taking a sign that read “Sky Go Home” out of a fan’s hands as he rode toward sign-in before the start of the stage. He initially denied the action when questioned by journalists prior to the stage, but acknowledged it after the finish in Lorient. Rowe, 28, characterized his interaction with the fan as civil and even jovial.
“It wasn’t meant to be malicious or anything,” Rowe told reporters at the team bus. “We had a guy outside the bus and he had a sign that said ‘Sky Go Home,’ and then when I went to sign-on I rode past him. He was kind of laughing about it, I was laughing about it, he’s stood next to his son in a Team Sky jersey, and I grabbed it off him. I don’t think he was too bothered.”
The incident might seem innocuous, but it highlights a larger tension felt during the Tour de France in the wake of Froome’s controversial Salbutamol case.
Fans booed Team Sky at the team presentation last week, and Froome has received the occasional boos and jeers along the route so far in this year’s Tour and at the sign-in ceremony each morning.
Didier Bregardes, a fan from Lorient who crafted the sign, said he was offended by recent comments from Sky principal Dave Brailsford criticizing UCI president David Lappartient as a “small town French mayor.”
“I’ve nothing against Froome or the riders, but it’s the way the manager of Sky, Brailsford, dealt with it,” Bregardes said. “I agree with what Lappartient said yesterday. It’s insulting what Brailsford said about him, about him being a small mayor of a small town.”
Rowe’s actions came following others comments Wednesday morning when he said that French fans have largely given Froome and the rest of Team Sky a relatively warm welcome. Rowe declined to apologize for his actions, characterizing the back-and-forth as “a bit of banter.”
“I don’t think I have to be sorry for anything, do I?” Rowe said. “I don’t think I’ve got anything to apologize for. It was no big deal, just a bit of banter. I don’t have to say sorry for anything.”
When asked what he did with the sign, Rowe said, “It was laminated, so I put in the recycling bin, which is where I think it belongs.”