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CARCASSONNE, France (VN)— Geraint Thomas will not allow negative public sentiment toward Team Sky ruin his time in the Tour de France’s yellow jersey.
Thomas, 33, said that the stories that erupted around Team Sky over the past two years had nothing to do with him — thus, he has chosen not to let the team’s bad press ruin what has been the “highlight of my career.”
“I’d rather be in this jersey and have the race of my life and get booed, than be 30th and be dropped and have everyone cheer me on,” Thomas told reporters after Sunday’s stage to Carcassonne. “Yeah, there is a bit of negativity which isn’t nice, but at the end of the day you need to stay strong in the head.”
Thomas did not specify which negative stories he was referring to. Over the past two years, the British cycling team has been plagued by a series of controversies. In 2016 it was revealed that Team Sky helped Bradley Wiggins obtain a Therapeutic Use Exemption for the corticosteroid triamcinolone on the eve of the 2012 Tour de France, which he won. Later, it was also revealed that Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman was sent a mystery package on the eve of the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine, which was destined for Wiggins.
This past December a leak of Chris Froome’s medical data revealed the four-time Tour de France champion had recorded an adverse analytical finding for Salbutamol at the Vuelta a España. That case was closed by the UCI on the eve of the 2018 Tour de France.
Thus far Sky riders have weathered numerous moments of public abuse during this Tour. The team was booed at the Tour’s opening presentation. On stage 12 to l’Alpe d’Huez a fan ran alongside the front group and shoved Chris Froome. On Saturday’s stage to Mende another fan sprayed Froome with an unidentified liquid.
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Prior to Sunday’s stage Mark Madiot, manager of France’s Groupama-FDJ team, said on the French post-race television show Velo Club that Sky’s series of controversies has eroded the sport’s global credibility. Madiot suggested the British team join the group Movement for Credible Cycling (MPCC), a group of cycling teams that follows its own anti-doping code that is more stringent that the WADA code.
The MPCC requires riders who receive intravenous corticosteroid injections to take eight days off of racing, among other rules.
“[Sky] have never shown a single sign of comprehension of the situation,” Madiot said. “They play the victim. At no point have we heard from them, ‘OK, there’s been a problem of perception, perhaps we could show something else.’ They don’t do that, so I can understand the reaction of the public, who whistle and boo.”
Thomas said the situation was “not nice,” and that perhaps journalists should ask the public why Sky is perceived negatively.
Thomas has held the race lead since he won the 11th stage, which finished atop La Rosiere. Since then he has battled back attacks from Tom Dumoulin (Sunweb), Primoz Roglic (LottoNL-Jumbo), and Romain Bardet (AG2R-LaMondiale), among others. He has ridden ahead of teammate Froome, who is the three-time defending champion of the race.
The time in yellow has placed extra requirements on Thomas during the race. Every day the race leader must face the media and go through the podium presentation after the stage. The fanfare and interviews often take several hours to complete. While domestique riders often eat and undergo a massage within an hour or so of the finish, the race leader does not receive his post-race pampering until far later.
Thomas said the small inconveniences are worth the honor that comes with the lead.
“It makes the day a little longer. It’d be nice to just finish the stage, have a shower, have your feet up, and have your recovery food straight away,” Thomas said. “Maybe that’s the downside — you have these little extra things to do. But you’re wearing the yellow jersey, and you get a real buzz off of that. And those things cancel each other out.”