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BAGNÈRES-DE-LUCHON, France (AFP) — UCI president David Lappartient called on Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford to stop fanning the flames after the Englishman blamed abuse of his team and riders on a “French cultural thing” at the Tour de France.
“He’s not doing his riders any favors,” Lappartient told AFP before the Tour de France’s stage 16 from Carcassonne to Bagnères-De-Luchon.
Amid a general feeling of suspicion surrounding Sky and their sheer domination of the Tour de France, Froome has been spat at and manhandled. Thomas has been booed off the podium, and some of Sky’s staff have also faced abuse during the opening 15 stages.
Froome, in particular, has endured more abuse than his Welsh teammate.
The four-time champion was the subject of an investigation into why a sample from his 2017 Vuelta a España victory revealed twice the permitted amount of the asthma drug Salbutamol.
Briefly banned from racing the Tour by organizers — a decision welcomed in France — Froome was allowed to race after the UCI dropped its case against him.
Brailsford, who has previously been questioned by a British parliamentary inquiry following allegations Sky had breached ethical guidelines by abusing the legal use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) for their riders, hit out at the treatment of his team on Monday.
He claimed Sky had only been abused by fans in France, and not those at the Giro d’Italia, which Froome won last May.
“Chris’s case was open when we raced in Italy. And they were fantastic, the Italians [fans],” said Brailsford.
“It seems to be the thing that’s done here. It just seems to be a French thing. A French cultural thing really.”
Lappartient added: “I can understand he [Brailsford] is annoyed the public are not passionate about his team and that they’ve been whistled.
“But that’s no reason to hit out at the French public. Hasn’t Mister Brailsford noticed it’s not just French people on the side of the road?
“He should not be making this about nationality. It’s pointless, and he mustn’t forget everything that France and the Tour de France have given him.”
Team Sky have won five of the past six yellow jerseys on the Tour, beginning with Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and Froome in 2013 and 2015-2017.
After stage 16, Thomas led Froome by 1:39 in the overall standings.