‘Spat on and punched’: Fans attack Tour
CHRIS Froome was punched and spat at as the latest stage of the Tour de France turned ugly.
Fellow Brit Geraint Thomas retained the Yellow Jersey with his second consecutive victory, but Froome made the headlines for reason he'd rather not on a day marred by multiple ugly clashes with unruly fans which ultimately resulted in former champion Vincenzo Nibali suffering a broken vertebrae.
Froome's incident could also have ended much worse than it did, The Sun reports.
"He was racing around the Alpe d'Huez circuit in the peloton one bystander rushed forward and appeared to aim a punch at him.
There were also reports he was spat at during the day's racing, and one fan even mooned him.
Thomas won a thrilling mountain stage of the Tour de France to strengthen his grip on the Yellow Jersey.
The Welshman clinched his second stage victory in a row at Alpe d'Huez with Froome a few seconds behind.
The Sky ace outsprinted team-mate Froome, as well as rivals Tom Dumoulin, Romain Bardet and Mikel Landa.
Thomas increased his gap over his fellow Brit on general classification to 1min 39sec, with Dumoulin still third chipping a few seconds off Froome.
Despite being heckled by fans on the stage winner's podium for attacking when Nibali crashed, Thomas said he would never forget his stage win.
Thomas said: "Honestly I'm speechless. I don't know what to say.
"There's no chance in hell I thought I was going to win today. I was just following Dumoulin and Bardet attacking.
"There was a bit of bad luck for Nibali, I nearly rode over his back wheel. It's just unbelievable.
"Can we just go to Paris now?
"I did say yesterday this race is made for me, after today that's it, I can be happy for sure now.
"Maybe [I can keep the Yellow Jersey] the next few days. You never know how the body reacts and I'm still riding for Froomie, he's still the man.
"The term legend gets used a lot but he's probably the best ever.
"I'm just going to enjoy this. I just can't believe it - Alpe d'Huez man!"
The world's eye, however, was focused on the ugly scenes of fans interfering with the race.
With fans pressing too close to an elite group of riders at the conclusion of the 21 hairpin bends up to Alpe d'Huez, top contender Vincenzo Nibali crashed into a police motorbike and later withdrew from the race.
Nibali, who claimed his sole yellow jersey in 2014, was transported to hospital with a suspected vertebra fracture after coming down hard following the collision.
He was later ruled out of the race.
Thomas acknowledged that Nibali's crash took some of the luster away from his victory.
"If people don't like Sky and want to boo, that's fine. Boo all you like, but don't affect the race," Thomas said.
"Don't touch the riders. Don't spit at us. Voice your opinions all you want but let us do the racing.
"He should have been fighting for victory," Thomas said of Nibali.
"It's a bit of a downer on the day." Nibali said:
"The road became narrower and there were no barriers. There were two police motorbikes. When Froome accelerated, I followed him, I was feeling good. Then we slowed down and I hit the ground."
Froome, who finished fourth, four seconds behind, refused to talk to reporters afterward. A fan who allegedly hit him during the stage was put in handcuffs by French police.
"You expect professional athletes to play sport and entertain without being touched or impacted on by the crowd," Sky general manager Dave Brailsford said.
"Part of the joy of our sport is how close the crowd gets. But we have to bear in mind that if it impacts on the race, as it did with Nibali today, then that's too much."
Thomas extended his lead over Froome in the overall standings to 1 minute, 39 seconds. He'll likely hold on to the yellow jersey for at least several more days as the Tour returns to flatter roads for Stages 13 and 14 before the climbs resume in the Massif Central and the Pyrenees.
The three-week race ends July 29 in Paris.
- with AP