Mende - Yellow jersey holder Geraint Thomas brushed off
suggestions he and Chris Froome were targeted by fans on the Tour de France
14th stage days after being booed and spat at by irate fans on Alpe d'Huez.
Welshman Thomas, a former Olympic track cycling champion,
suffered the indignity of being booed off the podium when he won the second of
back-to-back stages in the high Alps to take his lead over four-time champion
and teammate Froome to 1min 39secs.
On the second of those days, Froome was spat at and was
lucky not to crash after one fan slapped him heavily on the back as he raced
the 13.8km ascent to the summit.
Race officials have since called on fans to "respect
the riders" in the peloton.
But Team Sky's domination, and controversy involving the
British team in the lead-up to the Tour, has led to a backlash.
As Thomas and Froome raced to the finish line in Mende, 18
minutes behind Spanish stage winner Omar Fraile, insults - and liquid from a
bottle or cup - were thrown in Froome's direction.
The scene could have been reminiscent of 2015, when a fan
called Froome a "doper" as he threw a cup of urine in his face.
But Thomas played the incident down.
"I don't actually recall it, but I'm not
surprised," he said.
"We've had a bit of that (abuse) ... but it's always
been water. I wouldn't know what it was."
Sky have been the subject of potentially damaging incidents
in the past, and suspicion was raised in the wake of Bradley Wiggins' 2012
victory after medical records went missing or were never kept.
Froome, who won the Tour in 2013 and 2015-2017, was only
cleared to participate in this edition days before the start by the
International Cycling Union (UCI).
The Kenyan-born Briton was in the anti-doping crosshairs
after his "adverse, analytical finding" for the asthma drug
salbutamol on his way to victory in the Tour of Spain last year.
Froome was found to have double the permitted amount of the
drug in his body, but, prior to the UCI ruling, Sky have always maintained
Froome is "innocent".