RBA/AFP Photos: Bettini
Yellow jersey holder Geraint Thomas hit back at the doubters on Friday by claiming Team Sky are racing “100 percent” clean at the Tour de France. Thomas, a former Olympic champion in track cycling, was dramatically booed off the podium on Thursday after claiming his second successive stage win in the high Alps to reinforce his overall lead. It compounded a bittersweet day for the British outfit, who saw team leader and four-time champion Chris Froome spat at and pushed heavily by one of the many over-enthusiastic fans who line the 13.8 kilometer route to the summit.
Team Sky’s dominance of the race has caused the doubters to compare their performances to those of US Postal, the team once led by series drugs cheat Lance Armstrong. Armstrong, who won the Tour a record seven times, saw all his cycling results erased when he finally admitted he had taken performance-enhancing drugs throughout his career. But Thomas, who has a real chance of upstaging Froome to win the yellow jersey if the Kenyan-born champion fails to step up in the crucial, third week, said the doubters are wrong. “I 100 percent believe in myself and the team, that we do everything in the right way, along with the majority of the peloton as well,” said Thomas.
“I can’t say 100 percent for the peloton, but 99% I’m sure that everyone’s doing it the right way, working hard. I think it’s great for the sport. You look at all the anti-doping and all the tests and that type of stuff, and then you look at other sports. Cycling’s leading the way by a million miles, so I have every confidence
in the sport at the moment.”
At the end of the mainly flat 13th stage Friday, won by Slovakian fast man Peter Sagan of the Bora team, Thomas looked sheepish as he stepped on to the podium to be presented with the yellow jersey. In comparison to Thursday, there were practically no boos or whistling, incidents that were condemned earlier by race director Christian Prudhomme. “All I can do is renew calls for calm, for good sense and for serenity with
regard to the riders on the Tour de France,” Prudhomme told AFP. “Don’t whistle and, obviously, don’t touch the riders. Even if it’s just an over-friendly backslap.”
Welshman Thomas, who takes a 1min 39sec lead over Froome into Saturday’s undulating stage to Mende, said he is prepared for the flak. “Obviously, you’d prefer everyone to cheer you, but I can’t affect that,”
he said. “I’d rather be on the podium getting booed than sat on the bus and being cheered.”