Race leader Chris Froome had a cup of urine thrown at him on the approach to the finish at Mende on Saturday while the entire squad - including Roche - were booed, taunted and insulted by fans. “The fans were very aggressive; we’ve been booed and insulted,” said the Irishman.
“Luke Rowe and Richie (Porte) were spat at; it’s not only Froome but the entire team, every one of us. Even the last rider who was 25 minutes behind (has been targeted). It’s not great to be treated with such disrespect.”
Roche pointed his finger at the media for contributing to the unsavoury scenes which has marred the race.
“We’re dealing with a lot of accusations,” Roche added. “French TV and the media were quick to jump to conclusions and they’ve done a lot of harm. They’ve contributed to the situation.”
Sky Team manager Dave Brailsford suggested to Sky Sports that “the French crowd here is out of control”, describing the aggressive fans as akin to a football mob.
Froome also blasted some sections of the media, calling them “irresponsible”.
“I certainly wouldn’t blame the public for this. It really is the minority of the people out there ruining it for everyone else out here,” Froome said. “But I would blame some of the reporting on the race that has been very irresponsible. Those individuals know who they are.”
On the bike, Froome, maintained his seemingly unassailable three-minute lead at the top. Yesterday’s stage took the riders 183km from Mende to Valence and it was a bunch sprint that decided the outcome, with German Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) leading the peloton home from John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) and Alexander Kristoff (Katusha). The Irish trio of Roche, Dan Martin and Sam Bennett were 88th, 134th and 171st, respectively, and are 34th, 40th and 171st overall.
Today’s stage takes them 201 km from Bourg de Peage to Gap with two category two climbs to be negotiated.
Meanwhile, in the Junior Tour of Ireland, Frenchman Marin Ferre of the AC Bisontine team wrapped up the overall victory yesterday, holding off the brave challenges of Irish duo Darragh O’Mahony and Simon Tuomey.