A Team Sky rider snatched away a fan’s banner protesting against the team’s participation in the Tour de France prior to the start of stage five in Lorient.
Local resident Didier Bregardes was standing by the team buses at the start with an A4-sized sign which simply read ‘Sky – Go Home’.
Luke Rowe was identified by onlookers inside the paddock as the Sky rider in question but denied any knowledge of the incident.
Bregardes said: “The rider came over quickly, grabbed my placard and threw it down.”
Bregardes told reporters his banner was intended to protest against the way Team Sky handled the Salbutamol case involving Chris Froome, following the test he returned with high levels of the asthma drug during La Vuelta last year.
That investigation – now closed with Froome cleared of wrongdoing – took place in the public gaze following a leak, and Froome angered fans by choosing to continue to race as it rumbled on, winning the Giro d’Italia in May to hold all three Grand Tour crowns at once.
“When Froome was caught in the act at the Vuelta, the UCI and WADA didn’t react,” Bregardes said. “I’ve nothing against Froome or the riders, but it’s the way the manager of Sky, (Sir Dave) Brailsford, dealt with it.”
Rowe was asked if he took the sign but said: “No, I don’t know what you mean. It wasn’t me.”
The Welshman said the reception the team had received at the race had been positive following the significant booing which greeted Froome at the team presentiation last week.
“I think we got quite a negative reception going to the stage for the team presentation but apart from that it’s been awesome,” he said.
“I’ve been impressed with the French crowds. They’ve been pretty complimentary and positive towards us, which is nice. Of course, for every thousand cheers you might get one negative person, but you just take it in your stride.
“We’ve got pretty broad shoulders – it’s in one ear and out the other.”
Provided by Press Association Sport
Alexander Kristoff battled his way to a top-10 finish for UAE Team Emirates at stage four of the Tour de France.
The UAE Team Emirates were back road racing as they headed out on a flat 195km route from La Baule to Sarzeau.
The team stayed safe towards the front of the peloton for the entirety of the race, protecting Dan Martin and putting Kristoff in a good place for the finish.
In the final kilometres Kristoff showed his strength by battling hard at the front of the race to take seventh spot in a hotly contested bunch sprint.
Commenting on the result, Kristoff said: “I was in quite a good position and I came from behind with good speed. I knew this could be dangerous but I tried to go and I lost a little bit of rhythm when I started, then it’s always difficult. I had to stop pedalling two times in the last three hundred meters and I never really got up to full speed so I finished in seventh place. I need to do things better next time.”
Fernando Gaviria won stage four of the Tour de France as Mark Cavendish suffered further frustration in Sarzeau.
Quick-Step’s Gaviria edged out Peter Sagan at the line for his second stage victory of this year’s Tour, but Cavendish was left shaking a fist in anger after being caught out of position and touched by Dylan Groenewegen in the battle for space.
BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet retained the yellow jersey by finishing in the front group at the end of the 195km stage from La Baule.
Cavendish, looking to add to his 30 career Tour stage wins and chase down Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34, had been unable to contest sprints on the opening two stages after getting caught up in the chaos of their technical finishes.
Here his team looked well placed on the left-hand side of the road after the peloton’s late catch of the day’s breakaway almost in sight of the finish line.
But there was another breakdown in the Dimension Data lead-out train at a crucial moment as they perhaps hit the front too soon, and Cavendish could not respond as his rivals swarmed past.
By the time LottoNL-Jumbo’s Groenewegen brushed by him, Cavendish already looked out of it.
That left Gaviria, the 23-year-old Colombian making his Tour debut this year, to put in another huge turn of power which proved too much for Sagan despite a late push.
Chris Froome and the rest of the general classification contenders finished in the main group to ensure status quo in the battle for yellow, with EF Education First-Drapac’s Rigoberto Uran successfully chasing back on after being caught in a late crash to stay 10th, 35 seconds off Van Avermaet.