Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome was dragged off his bike by a French policeman shortly after finishing stage 17 on Wednesday, in an incident that resulted in an angry exchange.
The gendarme grabbed the 33-year-old Team Sky rider by the arm after reportedly mistaking him for a fan. Froome responded with a “fuck you”.
Froome was not injured in the incident and rode away from the scene. The MailOnline on Thursday dubbed the race, Tour de Farce.
The previous day a number of riders were hit with pepper spray after protesters threw bales of hay onto the road along the route from Carcassonne to Bagneres-de-Luchon.
Stage 16 was briefly paused as riders, including Froome and Team Sky colleague, Geraint Thomas, were seen dousing their faces with water.
Nairo Quintana won stage 17 and Thomas moved closer to the overall title on Wednesday, now holding a 1 minute 59 second lead over Tom Dumoulin, who is in second.
Froome is in third place, a further 32 seconds behind, and is said to have all but conceded that he won’t be defending his crown and will throw his support behind teammate, Thomas.
“That’s professional cycling, that’s what a team is all about. I’m happy just to be in the position I’m in. I’ll still fight for the podium and obviously we want to see ‘G’ up there in yellow,” the Guardian quoted Froome as saying.
Team Sky has accepted the incident with the French officer was a mistake, but Tour fans are said to be more cynical, with Froome having been spat at and shoved by angry spectators in previous days amid resentment at Team Sky’s dominance of the event.
Just days before the event started on July 7, the sport’s governing body, the UCI, cleared Froome to pursue his fifth title by closing their doping case against him.
While the World Anti-Doping Agency confirmed that one of Froome’s urine samples at the Vuelta a España last September did exceed the permitted levels of salbutamol, a medication that opens up the airways in the lungs, it was satisfied that it did not constitute an adverse analytical finding.