Dave Brailsford has hit out at Tour de France fans for spitting at Chris Froome and booing Geraint Thomas.
The Team Sky boss said their behaviour must be ‘a French cultural thing’ as he tore into the spectators over their treatment of his riders.
Chris Froome and Welshman Geraint Thomas are currently leading the race in first and second place.
But a cloud of suspicion, surrounding Froome’s participation in particular, has marred Team Sky’s efforts to bring home a sixth Tour de France trophy in seven years.
Brailsford suggested that Tour de France supporters’ abuse of his Team Sky riders was ‘a French thing’
A spectator wearing bright green shorts tried to slap Chris Froome during the Tour de France
‘It seems to be the thing that’s done here,’ Brailsford said. ‘It just seems to be a French thing. A French cultural thing really.
‘I’m not sure they would like to have seen their (France) football players being spat at (the World Cup) in Russia.
‘I’m sure there would have been a word or two about that. But it’s okay to spit at us and our staff? It’s very, very intimidating.
‘It’s a shame, but we’re not going to let it distract us.’
On Thursday last week a chaotic finish to the ski station at Alpe d’Huez saw Froome shoved and spat at by roadside fans.
A spectator also threw a flare at the Team Sky riders during stage 13 of the race on Friday.
A lit flare was thrown into the peloton of the Tour de France late on stage 13 to Valence
A fan leaned over the barriers toward Froome and made a gesture like he was injecting his arm
Meanwhile Thomas has been booed off the podium and some of Sky’s staff have also faced abuse during the opening 15 stages.
‘During the race, it’s the responsibility of the organisers to protect the riders,’ Froome said.
Froome was initially barred from starting his title defence by organisers because of the suspicion surrounding his ‘adverse analytical finding’ for the asthma drug salbutamol at the Tour of Spain last year.
The Kenyan-born Briton had double the permitted amount of the drug in his sample when he won the race in 2017.
Yet days before the Tour, the International Cycling Union (UCI) cleared Froome to race.
Protecting his rider, Brailsford added that the Tour de France risked alienating international teams if they couldn’t control spectators.
Dave Brailsford added that he believed the French would be up in arms were their football players treated the same way
‘If you don’t want international teams to come, you can have a Tour de France for French teams. That’s the way I see it really,’ Brailsford said.
‘We’re trying to remain dignified, we’re trying to not get distracted by it.
‘I don’t think spitting and throwing things really has a base in professional sport, nor in everyday life.’
Chris Froome has won the race for the last three years running and has four titles in total having won before in 2014.
Froome has had run-ins with the French spectators in previous years. In 2015, the Brit claimed a fan had thrown urine on him during stage 14 of the race.
The last time a Frenchman won the famous race was all the way back in 1985 with Bernard Hinault’s victory.
Froome (left) and Thomas (right) are leading the race with fans angry at their perceived dominance
Geraint Thomas of Great Britain and Team Sky was booed as he took to the podium after his stage 14 win on Saturday
HOW THE TEAM SKY CYCLING DRUGS SCANDAL UNFOLDED…
Oct 7, 2016: Sportsmail reveals that UK Anti-Doping are investigating Sir Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky over a medical package delivered before the 2011 Tour de France
Oct 10: Team Sky general manager Sir Dave Brailsford is branded ‘silly and careless’ by rider Emma Pooley. Brailsford had told Sportsmail that Simon Cope — the British Cycling coach who couriered the mystery package — was in France to see Pooley race. Pooley since confirmed she was 687 miles away on that day.
Oct 12: Cope claims he had no idea what was in the package.
Oct 15: Sportsmail reveals that Wiggins committed a ‘whereabouts failure’ — the equivalent of a missed drugs test — less than three months before that year’s Rio Olympics.
Oct 19: Riders Chris Froome and Sir Chris Hoy insist Wiggins has questions to answer over Therapeutic Use Exemptions for banned drug triamcinolone.
Oct 21: British Cycling chief executive Ian Drake announces he will step down in April.
Oct 28: Sportsmail reveals senior figures at British Cycling will be questioned by a Parliamentary select committee.
Dec 19: Brailsford tells the committee he was told by Team Sky’s Dr Richard Freeman (right) that the package contained Fluimucil, which was given to Wiggins at the end of the Criterium du Dauphine.
Dec 29: British Cycling are unable to confirm what was in the mystery package.
Feb 9, 2017: British Cycling chairman Bob Howden resigns.
Mar 2: UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead reveals Freeman had not kept proper records of the prescription drugs he gave to riders. Investigators discovered Freeman kept all records on a laptop he claims was stolen in Greece in 2014.
Mar 18: Former Sky rider Josh Edmondson admits breaking the team’s ‘no-needles’ policy between 2013 and 2014 and says he was given controversial painkiller tramadol during the 2013 Tour of Britain.
Nov 16: UKAD close their investigation due to insufficient evidence, but Sapstead stressed there was a ‘serious concern’ over Team Sky’s ‘lack of accurate medical records’.
Nov 21: Sportsmail reveals that Oldham-based firm Fit 4 Sport Ltd, the supplier who sent a batch of banned testosterone patches to Team Sky and British Cycling’s HQ, refused to co-operate with British Cycling’s investigation.
Dec 14: It emerges that Froome was found to have double the permitted levels of asthma drug salbutamol at the Vuelta a Espana in September.
March 2, 2018: Sportsmail reveals an investigation may have evidence suggesting the testosterone patches were ordered from Team Sky’s HQ.