Sky were one of the last teams to be paraded in front of the crowds in La Roche-sur-Yon for the usual pre-Tour presentation, but received a less than warm welcome as they rode on to the stage, with some shouting ‘cheat’ at Froome.
Earlier in the day, Froome’s rival for yellow Bardet had called on French crowds to show him respect on the roadside after the anti-doping investigation into him was closed.
AG2R La Mondiale’s Bardet, who is aiming to become the first Frenchman to win the Tour since Bernard Hinault in 1985, had previously been strongly critical of Froome’s decision to keep racing while the case resulting from his adverse analytical finding for Salbutamol at La Vuelta last year continued.
Although the UCI announced on Monday that investigation has now been closed, there are fears Froome could still face hostile crowds throughout the race as he seeks a record-equalling fifth Tour crown and fourth in a row.
Speaking before the presentation, Bardet, who has finished second and third behind Froome in the past two years, called on his compatriots to ensure the race plays out fairly.
“The decision has been made by the authorities and it is all about respecting that decision,” he said through a translator. “Respect by the riders, by the teams and also the public.
“The Tour is part of French heritage, it’s a celebration, a big party and it’s important that we speak about sport. That’s what it’s all about, it’s the Tour de France.
“It’s also important to respect all the riders, including Chris Froome, he is a former Tour winner and a serious contender for the next title. I hope this race will be played out on a fair-play basis, everything is neutral and we speak more about sport than security.
“That’s my hope. I trust the French people, they are clever people, and I hope they are there to support all the riders and provide a fair atmosphere.”
Froome’s case should have remained confidential, but details were leaked in December. That led to several figures in the sport saying he should voluntarily suspend himself, but the Team Sky rider insisted he had done nothing wrong and continued, winning the Giro d’Italia in May to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the same time.
Bardet said he was happy that Froome’s situation had been resolved before the Tour started.
“I’m happy the UCI has given an opinion and made a decision on this,” he said.
“Chris Froome suffered this situation for nine months as did the world of cycling, we all suffered from that.
“He is still the number one favourite for the race and maybe he will clinch his fifth victory. His main obstacle will be his own shape. We will see his shape very soon.
“The last months have not been good for cycling and it’s good to know the Tour will start in a peaceful atmosphere. I think this will be the case thanks to the decision from the UCI.”
At 27, Bardet should still be yet to peak, and appears France’s best hope of ending the long wait for success in their own race.
He was keen to play down any pressure which might be placed on his slight shoulders, but did not deny his target this July.
“This is my sixth Tour and I’ve never had such a great team around me,” he said. “This is a very demanding race and we will tackle it with greatness and humility. There is tough competition, the route is very tricky and we hope to do even better than previous years.
“When it comes to my real objective we will have to wait until the first stages, take it stage by stage and make no mistakes. We are very ambitious but also very humble.”
Chris Froome and Team Sky got a potential taste of things to come at the Tour de France on Thursday night as they were booed and whistled at the team presentation despite a call from French favourite Romain Bardet for fans to show them respect on the roadside.
Chris Froome (Team Sky) has welcomed the UCI’s decision to drop its anti-doping proceedings against him, describing it as “an important moment for cycling.” Froome returned an anti-doping sample containing twice the permitted limit of salbutamol at last year’s Vuelta a España, but he was free to race pending the resolution of the case. The...
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