MENDE, France (VN) — Chris Froome said a spectator threw urine at him during Saturday’s stage 14 of the Tour de France.
Froome rode on despite the unpleasant experience and defended his yellow jersey lead from attacks by Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who now sits second overall at 3:10 minutes. American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) fell to third overall at 3:32.
“Unfortunately, there was a bit of a damper on today’s stage for me,” Froome said after receiving the yellow jersey on the podium.
“A spectator, about 50 to 60km into the race, threw a small cup of urine at me while shouting ‘doper.’ I’m extremely disappointed with that.”
Froome and his teammates saw the spectator. He said that a man aimed the cup right at him when he made his remark, but refrained from going into details about him during a post-stage press conference.
“I was boxed in a little bit on the left, so I couldn’t move away from it,” he said.
“I saw this guy just peering around – it looked a bit strange – and as I got there he just launched this cup towards me and said ‘doper.’ There’s no mistake it was urine.”
As recently as the 2013 Tour de France, a fan threw urine on Mark Cavendish. Sky, however, has been the target of abuse during this Tour.
Fans have booed, tossed Coca-Cola cans, and thrown punches. In the closing kilometers of La Pierre-Saint-Martin stage, a person hit Richie Porte in the ribs. Sports Director Nicolas Portal explained to VeloNews that fans threw Coke cans, unopened, at the team car Friday.
“I certainly want to stress that it really is a minority of people out there,” Froome added.
“I just want to thank the thousands and thousands of supporters we have had out there, not just us, but supporting the race in general, supporting all the riders. It’s been magnificent. Unfortunately it’s a few individuals who are ruining it for everyone else.”
Froome, en route to his 2013 Tour de France win, said that he was punched five times. His teammate Geraint Thomas joked that when they were losing in 2014, the fans “loved” them.
“What can we do?” Thomas said after the Mende finish Saturday.
“People come out to boo us, and whatever. I just shrug it off and use it as motivation.
“When people start hitting riders and things, that’s when it’s different. Are we taking it seriously? Yeah, anything can happen, there’s nothing to stop people doing that. It’s not nice to hear.”
Froome and the team blamed French 2 television commentator and former professional Laurent Jalabert for helping fuel the hatred towards Sky. Jalabert, who doped with EPO in his career, said, “It feels a little uncomfortable seeing the ease of Sky when contrasted with the distress experienced by the first three of the Tour last year.”
“It’s the tone that’s set by some of the irresponsible people reporting on the race,” Froome said today. “They set that tone and people believe what they see in the media.”
“They should not be saying those things,” Thomas added. “Look at others in the top 10, like [Frenchman] Tony Gallopin, they don’t comment on their rides like that they do on ours.”