Stay home from the Tour de France if you are not a fan of cycling, says Luke Durbridge in response the anti-Sky boos and spits.
The Australian rider for Mitchelton-Scott rode alongside Luke Rowe (Team Sky) up the climb from Mende on the finish to stage 14 and witnessed the “shameful” actions of roadside spectators.
“Most the time, I’ve seen nothing but positive energy from the crowd. I’ve been up the climb by myself, getting pushes and a lot of support, it’s been great!” Durbridge told Cycling Weekly before stage 16 left from Carcassonne.
“I was riding with Luke Rowe. I hadn’t been with one of the Sky riders before on the climb. I thought it was a shame, they rode 180 kilometres for their team leader and then up the climb, trying to do their best, crowds are jeering, booing them and spitting on the ground in front of them. I just felt sad about that.
“Cycling has always seen fans cheering for riders, giving their support, but now… booing and spitting. If you are not a fan of cycling, then you should stay home.”
“It wasn’t great that’s why I said something,” Durbridge said.
“The attitude towards Sky is probably worse than other years. The other teams, we have to work at how to beat Sky, it’s not unusual, you have a big dominate team, it happens in all sport. The boos and everything, they really go out of their way to make them feel unwelcome in this race.
“Rowe’s a good friend of mine too. It’s not fair for Luke, who has a role like me, riding for a team leader. But he finishes his work and gets treated like that? Getting abuse from people who don’t know what they are talking about. I think it’s an uneducated opinion.”
Earlier in the race there had been trouble on the slopes of Alpe d’Huez where olice arrested at least one man who hit Chris Froome on the way up the climb on stage 12. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) went on to win the stage in the yellow jersey and Froome finished fourth.
Further down, overflowing crowds squeezed in on police motorbikes and the leaders causing a strap from a camera or other device to catch Vincenzo Nibali’s handlebars. His subsequent crash and fractured vertebra forced him to abandon the race.
“It’s cool to see riders attacking through the lines of fans who are up close,” Durbridge added. “You don’t want to discourage people from being passionate and from supporting, but there’s a [certain limit. We] don’t want to have flares or to be hit by camera straps. And smart phones have changed things, people are in closer now.”