Mon, Jul 11, 2016 - Page 12 News List

Colombian fan incident prompts apology from leader

AFP, BAGNERES-DE-LUCHON, France

A spectator cheers as Chris Froome rides past during the Tour de France on Saturday.

Photo: AP

Chris Froome has pleaded with fans to respect riders after lashing out at a Colombian supporter of his main Tour de France rival.

The defending champion threw out his arm and gave the fan a hearty shove as he was climbing up the final difficulty of the day on Saturday’s eighth stage in the Pyrenean mountains.

Froome went on to win the stage following an audacious attack on a breakneck descent to the finish in Bagneres de Luchon.

After collecting the maillot jaune as the new overall race leader, Froome, whose main competition is Colombian darling Nairo Quintana, said: “I’ve got nothing against Colombian fans, they’re fantastic and bring a great atmosphere to the race.”

“This guy in particular was running right next to my head and had a flag flapping behind him,” he said. “It was just getting dangerous. I lashed out and pushed him away.”

The brusque reaction was caught on television and picked up by social media users.

Froome came in for some criticism and later expressed his displeasure on Twitter.

“Getting abuse for the hand off of the spectator, camera doesn’t show his flag almost going into my front wheel & across my handlebars!” Froome said in a post that ended with an angry-face smiley.

He later returned to Twitter to write an open apology to the fan he elbowed, even doing so in Spanish.

“Sorry to the fan I pushed today — I was worried about how close he was, due to the danger that he could cause a crash,” Froome said.

He was quick to try to diffuse the incident in his post-race press conference.

“It’s fantastic having so many fans out on the roads, but please don’t try running with the riders,” he said. “It gets really dangerous for guys riding behind.”

Froome has been on a charm offensive in France after coming in for some rough treatment and abuse from supporters last year.

He allegedly had urine thrown over him, was spat at and insulted on the route to Paris before securing his second Tour victory.

This year, he has been highly complimentary of French fans and even claimed on Twitter ahead of France’s Euro 2016 semi-final against Germany that he would be supporting the hosts.

While Froome has had some rough treatment from a portion of fans, Dutchman Tom Dumoulin revealed he had been rescued, to a certain extent, by some helpful supporters with a camper van.

“I guess I ate a little bit too much sugar today. Stomach started to protest,” he wrote on Twitter.

“At the bottom of Peyresourde I went in blind panic into a camper for a #1. Couldn’t hold it anymore haha!”

Dumoulin asked for help in tracking down the camper van owners to thank them properly.

“I will spare you the details but let’s just say you could see it was necessary hahaha! Merci beaucoup to the family of the camper!” he wrote. “If someone can find these people that would be amazing! I’d like to send them a signed jersey for their help!”

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