Tour de France 2015: Chris Froome has cup of urine thrown over him to overshadow Stephen Cummings victory

Froome has cup of urine thrown over him but extends overall lead as 34-year-old Briton takes stage for his unheralded African team

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The Independent Online

The innuendo attack on Chris Froome reached a new low when the Tour de France leader had a cup of urine hurled by a fan who yelled: "Dopé!" [meaning doped]. Froome blamed "irresponsible reporting" that had questioned if he was clean.

This latest incident came in the same week that Froome’s Sky team-mate Richie Porte was punched by a fan on a Pyrenean climb, and overshadowed a superbly calculated stage victory by Britain’s Stephen Cummings after the lung-burstingly steep climb to Mende.

His triumph came after he outfoxed two French riders, Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot, as they dithered ahead of the Merseysider at the summit of the Mende ascent; Cummings, a former world team pursuit champion, stormed past the duo to take a historic first Tour stage win for both himself and his MTN-Qhubeka squad.

 

Froome, who extended his overall lead over the Colombian Nairo Quintana – who yesterday moved into second place overall – to 3min 10sec, said he had clearly been targeted by the fan, some 60 kilometres into yesterday’s stage. “It was on a drag, I was boxed in a little bit on the left, I saw this guy and as I got there, he just launched this cup towards me and yelled, “Dopé!” There’s no mistake it was urine.”

Although it is rare, other high-profile riders have had equally unpleasant experiences in the past – Mark Cavendish was also on the receiving end of a container of urine during the 2013 Tour, and the triple world champion Oscar Freire was hit in the thigh by an air-rifle pellet during the 2009 Tour.

However, these latest attacks are evidence of more specific targeting. Given the degree of media speculation and suspicions focused on the Briton and Sky after Froome’s dominating ride in the Pyrenees last week, the Tour leader said the ultimate blame for the attack lay with that “irresponsible reporting” on the Tour. That, he argued, had led to small groups of fans incorrectly believing he was not riding clean.

Steve-Cummings.jpg
Stephen Cummings celebrates a first Tour stage win

At pains to emphasise that the vast majority of fans and media are not involved in any way, Froome said: “A lot of reporting has been fantastic on this race, [but] it really is the minority of people out there who are ruining it for everyone else. I would blame some of the reporting on the race.”

Asked to name specific articles which were, in his view, fuelling some fans’ ire, Froome said: “Those individuals [writing the reports containing speculation] know who they are. It is not all the media.”

“It’s no longer the riders who are bringing the sport into disrepute now. It’s those individuals [in the media], and they know who they are.”

Up to now Froome has responded calmly to the verbal speculation, and denied that such physical attacks would distract him from battling for a second Tour victory.

“I’m not scared about this,” he said. “I just hope it doesn’t interfere with the racing. That’s why we’re all here. I’m staying extremely focused on my job, that I’m here to do. I’m not going to let anything put me off.”

Froome certainly seemed on track yesterday, keeping his own pace on the final, decisive ascent to Mende in the face of several probing challenges from Quintana. The Briton and Colombian finally went clear of their most tenacious pursuers, the double Tour winner Alberto Contador and his fellow Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, with Froome outsprinting Quintana on the finish line to take 20th place on the stage.

A few minutes earlier, Cummings had taken that breakthrough victory for the wild-card team MTN-Qhubeka, the first African-registered trade team in the Tour’s long history – a win that had extra resonance for the South African team given that yesterday was Nelson Mandela Day.

With no overall contender in their ranks, stage wins like Cummings’ are the small squad’s main goal, and the Merseysider’s track past and huge experience helped to give the 34-year-old the edge yesterday.

“I just time-trialled my way up the climb, told myself not to get too excited because it’s the Tour, and then when I got to the top I could see Pinot ahead of me,” Cummings explained afterwards.

“After that, when the road tipped [downhill to the finish], it was in my favour, because I’m heavier than the climbers and probably more aerodynamic. I could take the corners a bit harder because I know Pinot is more cautious and wouldn’t take a risk, and I went full on.

“In a distance like that, a flat 500 metres, it’s hard to chase down a [former] track rider if he’s got a gap. Tactically, I did it well.”

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