Sports director blames French media for whipping up negative sentiment against Chris Froome's team

It’s not just rival teams trying to stop Team Sky winning the Tour de France — punches and Coca-Cola cans have been thrown in their direction too as they try to deliver Chris Froome to a victory in Paris.

Richie Porte, Froome’s mountain helper, received a blow to his ribs while racing up the La Pierre-Saint-Martin on Monday. The hit came after he did his turn for Froome, who attacked from 6.4 kilometres out to win the stage.

“I don’t think I deserve to be punched just for doing my job,” Porte told Fairfax Media.

Porte added that the punched shocked and hurt him, but he had to continue to the line. He finished the stage in second place, just ahead of Nairo Quintana.

Team Sky’s management have suggested that the attitude of the French media is one cause of the sometimes poisonous atmosphere at the roadside. Innuendo about doping has been rife. Former professional Laurent Jalabert said during the stage on Tuesday: “It feels a little uncomfortable seeing the ease of Sky when contrasted with the distress experienced by the first three of the Tour last year.”

Jalabert won several one-day races, the Vuelta a España and the mountains jersey in the Tour de France, but tests later revealed that he used EPO.

“It’s really disappointing,” Froome said about Jalabert. “These guys are setting the tone for the public, for the fans.”

>>> Richie Porte to leave Team Sky ‘to become team leader’

Jalabert’s words might have helped propel cans of Coca-Cola, unopened, at Team Sky’s car on Friday.

“It’s terrible. Some French media are over doing it. They are asking questions that they can ask, but when you do that you put the doubts in the public,” Sky sports director, Frenchman Nicolas Portal, told Cycling Weekly.

“This person should be careful because with the microphone they have power. Thousands of people are listening. I’ve told the French press what I think of Jalabert. I don’t think they are doing a good job in explaining what we are doing. He can do what he wants, and apparently he is doing a good job, but I don’t think this is doing a good job to tell the public that we may be doing something [illegal].”

>>> Cycling quiz: Chris Froome in 10 questions

In the last two days, there have been more police officers standing around Sky’s bus. It is unclear if this is just because Froome is wearing the yellow jersey, or whether there is genuine fear for Sky’s riders.

Portal said that even if his riders do not admit to it, they could be concerned and even “scared” about possible violence.

“I hope the public will chill out. It’s pretty hard, especially for me since I’m French,” Portal said.

“There’s nothing they can do — there is just a barrier and nothing else on the road [to stop anyone]. Anyone can cross the road and punch someone.”

In 2013, a fan hit Peter Kennaugh at the Tour, but such incidents are hardly unheard of — in 1975, a fan punched Eddy Merckx on the Puy de Dome climb.

Get the inside line on Team Sky from team mechanic Gary Blem 

  • Margaret

    Not to mention fire regulations …..

  • poisonjunction

    You are evidently unfamiliar with the English language!

  • James Wilcox

    French media is always pissed because Bernard Hinault was the last Frenchman to win the tour overall. Sure, they have stage winners these days but haven’t had an overall great rider since the Badger.

  • Malaprop

    nah, he’s old school. Like when Belichick tries to describe inflation and global warming.

  • poisonjunction

    Neilo – you are right, take no notice of Autodidact – a simple ‘Thank you’ from him would have been at least polite.

  • Baklava

    The French press (often based on known ex-dopers) and even Danish press (more certainly based on ex-dopers) seem to get very rabid when the Brits do well. They were very happy when Froome was poorer nick last year and no one else gets tarred with the same brush (nibali wins by a mile and not a word is said; Contador wins Grand Tours after a doping ban and no one says a word). Chris Froome pedals quickly and is better than the others this year – there is no evidence of other practices and Sky are very positive about letting UCI etc take a detailed look at what they do. He is not Lance Armstrong. With him the smoking guns were pretty obvious a long way out.

  • John Smith

    One day racing will be on closed roads All down to a few nutters

  • cnast

    if you think about it he is in a really good place to recognize someone using PEDs.

  • Allen Kemmett

    “The Tour Of Dope”, unfortunately, is not far from the truth.

  • AUTODIDACT

    That must make you feel much better.

  • Neilo

    “Stringent doping regimes”? “Stringent anti-doping regimes” surely?!

  • AUTODIDACT

    One reason British riders are doing much better is because of much more
    stringent doping regimes.
    I have been following the TDF since 1960, its noteworthy many of those now
    behind Chris Froome no longer can cut it.
    We still have team managers sitting in cars behind who have been caught doping.

  • alan taylor

    Good luck to team sky and all the riders stay safe

  • Malaprop

    Jalabert tested positive for EPO, yet he feels comfortable making these criticisms.

  • Nigel

    Unfortunately the intimidators will eventually get into the heads of the riders and who knows but once again we will see a rider withdraw from a race because of these thugs.

  • Jsmith

    Ian the idiots on here are talking out of the orifice they sit on nothing to do with their mouths.

  • Billy

    This is what happens when an irresponsible media allows unrestrained speculations and whips up a scandal. An unproven scandal I might add. Those who attack riders and those who incite them are all scum in my eyes.

  • Brendan Power

    Yes, it’s all very sad. Unable to produce a rider capable of winnming the tour for 30 years, the French seem to be taking their frustration out on les Anglais; no mention, it would appear, of Spanish, Columbian or Polish riders who have done well. And as for Jalabert ………….

  • Sportsman

    Disgusting behaviour from so called spectators? This smacks of bad sportsmanship from people who are unable to accept the fact that Sky and Froome are just simply so much better. The type of person who carries out these sort of tactics, are vey small.

  • TrevorHoldsworth

    Cedric Vasseur (ex-Cofidis, ex-USPS, now a colleague of Jalaberts) is making worse insinuations than Jalabert. He is France Television’s commentator on the motorbike. The whole attitude of France Television seems to be anti-Sky, which is far removed from what can be considered good reporting. They were just the same two years ago.

  • eminusx

    they also need to clamp down on pond life like Jalabert making unfounded and dangerously inciteful comments, just because he couldn’t achieve his ambitions without the aid of drugs why should his frankly jealous attitude poison the careers of others who can.

  • eminusx

    its an utter disgrace, the governing bodies need to take serious steps to stamp this out, phyiscally attacking a rider isnt just disgusting behaviour, its a criminal offence and should be treated so! The situation with fans is getting out of hand. . . first its idiots (i cant honestly call them fans or they’d be actually watching the race!!) taking out riders with their cameras, now theyre trying to take them out with physical violence. . .what the fkkkk is happening to this sport!

  • Dan

    I find it strangely ironic that Sky are being criticised by the media so much, yet, the Tour’s “Most Popular Rider” is riding better than ever without anyone questioning this. Whilst I’m not saying that Valverde or the rest of Movistar are doping, it could be that he’s returned to such a high level due to there no longer being doping and his natural talent is showing; but the fact that they have riders in second and fifth, and no one has batted an eye lid does suggest that the media is out to get Sky and Froome. I personally would prefer it if they assumed innocence until proven guilty.

  • Ms McG

    Has the scumbag who punched Richie Porte been prosecuted?Have the authorities even tried to find him since it happened? They should, if nutters see they can get away with such behaviour it will become more common until something really serious happens. These riders are very vulnerable and I think more ought to be done to protect them from the public. We never see anyone about, marshalls or police, attempting to keep people away from the riders on hill climbs, it’s just not good enough. I suppose until something really bad occurs nothing will be done as usual.

  • You see these haters here on Discuss too. It is a very short step between posting these hate and libelous messages and punching riders. It’s about time you guys stopped your mouths.