LA ROCHE-SUR-YON, France (AFP) — Four-time winner Chris Froome was booed by the crowd that gathered for the teams presentation of the Tour de France in a small town in the west of France on Thursday evening.
In the same stoic manner Froome had faced a packed press conference the evening before, the champion held his nerve before the crowds just three days after being cleared over a suspicious anti-doping test from last September that came to nothing but which has hit his reputation.
Some sections of the crowd cheered and the boos were more in the manner of the school outing whistling a pantomime villain.
When Team Sky’s turn came to be presented, a defiant Froome told the crowd “We’re going all out for a fifth victory,” drawing some applause.
All 22 teams did a small circuit of the town of La Roche-sur-Yon. There were incidents witnessed on the 1km circuit where spectators shouted insults at the 33-year-old Kenyan-born Briton.
The Tour de France starts on Saturday from nearby Noirmoutier-en-Isle for a 21-day race around France where Froome is favorite to win.
Froome expressed massive relief on Wednesday in his first major meeting with the press since being allowed in the race just days after being cleared by the UCI.
Tour organizer ASO had banned Froome from the race, but the World Anti Doping Agency and the UCI delivered a long-awaited verdict on a September 2017 test of the Briton, clearing his name.
“Now I just want to draw a line in the sand and move on,” said Froome, who won the Giro d’Italia in May. “My aim is to win and go for a Tour-Giro double.”
UCI chief David Lappartient has called upon the public to treat Froome fairly and respectfully.
French authorities have also rallied behind the Briton. Around 30,000 security forces will be deployed over the three weeks to maintain order.
BMC Manager Jim Ochowicz scoffed at the idea there was a security threat to Froome in the wake of fears for the Sky leader’s personal safety.
“The Tour is hard and dangerous in itself,” he said. “It’s difficult to control everybody out there in the hills.
“But the peloton will protect him, the police will protect him and the [Tour organizers] ASO will protect him,” insisted the veteran of 20 Tour de France races.
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