MONT-SAINT-MICHEL, France, July 11 – Kenyan born Tour de France leader Chris Froome came to the defence of former team-mate Mark Cavendish on Wednesday and hit out at the spectator who threw urine at the British sprint star.
The incident happened during the 11th stage of the Tour de France, a 33-kilometre individual time-trial between Avranches and Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy.
It came a day after he was blamed for a collision that sent Argos rider Tom Veelers crashing to the ground in Saint-Malo.
Cavendish did not talk to the media after the race, but Froome, speaking after holding on to the yellow jersey, said what happened “ruined” what has otherwise been a wonderful atmosphere throughout the 100th staging of the sport’s greatest race.
“It is disappointing to hear about one individual like that,” he said.
“That’s one of the beauties of our sport. Anyone can come and watch at the side of the road and enjoy the excitement and really get close to the top riders in the world.
“Mark is one of the big characters in the sport, and some people love him, some people hate him.
“But to do something disrespectful like that, that’s really sad. It ruins the whole atmosphere.”
Earlier in the day, Omega Pharma team CEO Patrick Lefevere confirmed to AFP that Cavendish had been insulted by spectators and attacked by one individual on the race route.
“Probably some spectators were not very pleased with what happened yesterday and they yelled to him and then one other idiot threw urine at him,” said the Belgian.
“Mark is not upset, but he is really disappointed because he thinks he didn’t deserve this.”
“The cycling public is known for being very fair, we have no hooligans, but there are thousands and thousands of people on the roads and not everybody is a gentleman,” the Belgian added.
Cavendish escaped without punishment following Tuesday’s clash with Veelers, which happened during a sprint for the line won by German rider Marcel Kittel.
Veelers pinned the blame on the British champion, and an anxious Cavendish became embroiled in a spat with one journalist after the finish to Tuesday’s stage, snatching away his dictaphone after being asked if he felt the crash was his fault.
However, Cavendish later called Veelers to apologise and Lefevere hopes that can be the end of the matter.
“He apologised already yesterday (Tuesday) on Twitter and on the phone,” he said. “If you don’t agree you don’t take the telephone, but he (Veelers) took the telephone.
“Today is a time-trial so you don’t have the time but maybe tomorrow (Thursday) he can have a little handshake with Tom Veelers if he agrees to do it and then this case has to be closed.”