A collective sign of relief was heard from all British cycling fans this week as Sir Jim Ratcliffe was confirmed as the new owner, and main sponsor, of Team Sky racing.
Stage 19 added fuel to the fire when Chris Froome was caught out by a mechanical issue going up the Col du Croix de Fer.
Competitor Vincenzo Nibali, according to other riders in the group decided to turn up the gas, leaving Froome standing on the side of the road.
Nibali however tells a different side to the story, noting that he did not know Froome was off his bike. “I don’t deserve the words he said, they are too hard, and not right to say. He was very upset with me and I don’t understand his problem.”
“When the race is going on, there are problems, like when Contador crashed the other day. Before judging, you need to think and reflect. He attacked me, I could have stood there and argued, but it wouldn’t have changed anything.”
Nibali won the stage ahead of Colombian Nairo Quintana. Post-race Froome was understandably shaken. “It’s not in the spirit of the Tour de France” said Froome after he lashed out at Nibali.
“It seemed to me that Nibali had the whole climb to attack, but he chose the moment when I had a mechanical to make his move.”
Froome explained that he was not particularly worried about Nibali who was nine minutes behind the yellow jersey leader, however that the move would provoke others to attack making retaining the yellow jersey that much harder.
Despite having a significant time advantage over his competitors and showcasing spectacular composure on and off the bike, Froome has had a less than ideal experience dealing with fans.
“Primarily we’re human beings and then we’re sportsmen. People need to remember that. You can’t come to a bike race to spit at someone, or to punch them or to throw urine at them. That’s not acceptable.”
Regardless of the hostility he is looking forward to today’s stage, and climbing the notorious Alpe d’Huez.
“I can’t wait for tomorrow,” Froome said. “It’s the most iconic climb of this year’s Tour de France. It’s the final test in terms of the general classification. I imagine it’s going to be an absolutely amazing atmosphere. I’m in a great position: two and a half minutes advantage. I can’t wait to get up there now.”
GC standings are as follows
1. Chris Froome (Britain/Team Sky) 78hr 37min 34sec
2. Nairo Quintana (Colombia/Movistar) +2:38
3. Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar) +5:25
4. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy/Astana) +6:44
5. Alberto Contador (Spain/Tinkoff-Saxo) +7:56