Tour de France: Froome is forced to go on the defensive again

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Chris Froome once again issued a robust defence of his strong performances as the Tour de France headed towards the Alps, where the race will be won.

The Team Sky rider maintained his lead of three minutes 10 seconds over nearest challenger Nairo Quintana (Movistar) after the 15th stage from Mende to Valence, won by Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal).

Froome had urine thrown over him and was called a ‘doper’ on Saturday’s 14th stage and felt “irresponsible” reporters and television pundits were culpable for the hostile reception from roadside spectators, which has also seen Team Sky riders booed and spat at.

The 30-year-old was asked again about the incident yesterday as the peloton traversed southern France towards the Alps, where four stages will take place next week.

“Times have changed. Everyone knows that,” said Froome, referring to riders from the drug-riddled era who are now prominent on television screens.

“This isn’t the Wild West that it was 10, 15 years ago. Of course there are still going to be riders who take risks (with performance-enhancing drugs) in this day and age, but they are the minority. It was the other way round 10, 15 years ago.

“There is no reason in this day and age for that level or suspicion to continue. There is absolutely no reason.”

When asked about his comments on the reporting, Froome said: “You didn’t see any reports about suspicious performances in this year’s Tour de France?

“If people are led to believe that these performances are not legitimate, that’s what’s going to push them to start booing, punching, spitting, throwing urine on riders. That’s my point.

“I don’t see what else I can do, other than speak up about it and plead with people to make up their own minds.”

Froome had a straightforward, incident-free day on the road yesterday, placing 23rd as German Greipel won his third stage of the race.

Greipel followed his successes on stage two to Zeeland and stage five to Amiens by beating John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), who were second and third.

Today’s 16th stage is 201km from Bourg de Peage to Gap, which hosts Tuesday’s rest day ahead of four days in the Alps, which begin on Wednesday.