Team Sky principal David Brailsford apologised for his comments calling the sometimes hostile attitudes of spectators at the Tour de France “like a French cultural thing“.
Speaking to The Guardian after the finish of stage 17 of the Tour de France on the Col du Portet, where Geraint Thomas cemented his lead in the race, Brailsford clarified what he meant by the statement.
“My intention was never to criticise the entire French nation,” Brailsford said. “I’m a Francophile. I think anybody who knows me knows that wasn’t my intention but I was pretty agitated about the attention we were getting.
“Of course, I don’t believe that spitting is a French cultural thing, but my point was that we only get that kind of thing at the Tour de France.”
Team Sky’s reception in France was negatively affected by the abrupt closure of the anti-doping proceedings against Chris Froome, whose excess salbutamol levels in the Vuelta a España were deemed “not inconsistent with” use of an asthma inhaler at allowed doses by the World Anti-Doping Agency.
The UCI closed the case days before the Tour de France’s Grand Depart, and the squad were met with boos at the teams presentation and each subsequent stage – including on the Col du Portet.
Brailsford ascribed the attitude to a minority of the people along the course.
“There was a certain section of the crowd misbehaviour that I don’t think any fair-minded people would think was acceptable,” Brailsford said. “France has given me such a fantastic experience over so many years that I’d never be ungrateful for that. The issue was more security. It’s been quieter, it’s been calmer since we came towards Spain.”
The tense atmosphere could have played a part in the actions of Gianni Moscon, who punched Elie Gesbert on stage 15 and was ejected from the race.
“This was a volatile environment and I selected him to come here and I take responsibility for bringing him here,” Brailsford said. “It’s been a difficult challenge to deal with.
“I’m 55 years old, I should know better myself. If I’m finding it challenging then these young lads are going to find it even more so. I don’t want ‘Brailsford thinks crowd contributed to Moscon behaviour,’ because that would be a step too far. I’m putting the Moscon thing behind me for now and I’m focussing on the guys who deserve all this attention. I’ll come back to him after and draw some conclusions after that.”