Johanneburg - This year’s Tour de France, one of the biggest annual sporting events in the world, might end up being called the Tour de Violence.
If the team presentation on Thursday evening was anything to go by, current Tour de France champion Chris Froome is going to need an armed escort for the entire 3 329km of the cycling race.
Froome, who has lived under a cloud for the past nine months while an adverse analytical finding on his asthma medication was under review, was loudly booed and jeered when Team Sky took to the podium in Vendeé during the team presentations.
The British cyclist was cleared of any wrongdoing earlier in the week, but the vocal and passionate fandom of the grandest of the Grand Tours was clearly having none of it.
Jonathan Vaughters, the manager of the Education First team of last year’s Tour de France runner-up, Rigoberto Urán, has voiced his concerns at the threats being directed towards Froome.
“If I were Team Sky, I would be concerned. Reading comments on social media from people saying: ‘Since justice wasn’t served, we’ll serve it from the side of the road.’ That’s basically an outright threat,” he said.
Armed police officers are patrolling team hotels and have been a presence at the Team Sky and Education First hotels.
Froome is aiming to win the Tour de France for the fifth time, hot on the heels of his Vuelta a España and Giro d’Italia wins.
The 21-stage Tour de France offers an exciting mix of challenges, including everything from a return of the Alpe d’Huez to the rumble strips of the Paris-Roubaix cobbles, plus a 65km road stage in the Pyrènèes with, for the first time in its history, a gridded start.
Try to catch tomorrow’s team time trial in Cholet – it is 35km of intense cycling.
Riders to watch:
Peter Sagan, who is one of the funniest men on two wheels, and he can race.
South Africa’s Daryl Impey, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg and Jay Thomson. – City Press correspondent