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MONT-SAINT-MICHEL, France (AFP) — Tour de France leader Chris Froome came to the defence of former Sky teammate Mark Cavendish on Wednesday and hit out at the spectator who threw urine at the star sprinter.
The incident happened during the 11th stage of the Tour, a 33-kilometer individual time trial between Avranches and Mont Saint Michel in Normandy. It came a day after Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was involved in a collision that sent Argos-Shimano rider Tom Veelers crashing to the ground in Saint Malo.
Cavendish did not talk to the media after the race, but Froome, speaking after holding onto the yellow jersey, said what happened “ruined” what has otherwise been a wonderful atmosphere throughout the 100th staging of the Tour.
“It is disappointing to hear about one individual like that,” he said. “That’s one of the beauties of our sport. Anyone can come and watch at the side of the road and enjoy the excitement and really get close to the top riders in the world.
“Mark is one of the big characters in the sport, and some people love him, some people hate him. But to do something disrespectful like that, that’s really sad. It ruins the whole atmosphere.”
Earlier in the day, Omega Pharma CEO Patrick Lefevere confirmed to AFP that Cavendish had been insulted by spectators and attacked by one individual on the race route.
“Probably some spectators were not very pleased with what happened yesterday and they yelled to him and then one other idiot threw urine at him,” said the Belgian. “Mark is not upset, but he is really disappointed because he thinks he didn’t deserve this.”
“The cycling public is known for being very fair, we have no hooligans, but there are thousands and thousands of people on the roads and not everybody is a gentleman,” the Belgian added.
Cavendish escaped without punishment following Tuesday’s clash with Veelers, which happened during a sprint for the line won by Veeler’s teammate Marcel Kittel. Veelers pinned the blame on the British champion, and an anxious Cavendish became embroiled in a spat with one journalist after the finish, snatching away his recorder after being asked if he felt the crash was his fault.
Cavendish later called Veelers to apologize and Lefevere hopes that can be the end of the matter.
“He apologized already yesterday on Twitter and on the phone,” he said. “If you don’t agree, you don’t take the telephone, but he [Veelers] took the telephone.
“Today is a time trial so you don’t have the time, but maybe tomorrow he can have a little handshake with Tom Veelers if he agrees to do it and then this case has to be closed.”