Tour de France: Sagan wins stage five amid simmering Team Sky tension

Peter Sagan took his second phase win by winning the 204.5 km fifth stage, while Luke Rowe snatched an anti-Sky flag from a fan

Tensions at the Tour de France around Chris Froome and his Sky teammates demonstrated little sign of abating on Wednesday. The defending champ was booed once again at the beginning village for stage five, and a French fan holding up a” Sky- Go Home” banner outside the Team Sky bus had it snatched out of his hands by Froome’s teammate, Luke Rowe.

Asked immediately afterwards by reporters about the incident, Rowe denied any participation.” I don’t know what you mean. It wasn’t me ,” he said.

After the finish in Quimper, however, in which Peter Sagan took his second phase win of the 2018 Tour, Rowe elaborated.” The fan had a sign that said’ Sky- Go Home ‘,” he said.

” When I went to sign on I rode past him, he was various kinds of laughing about it, I was laughing about it, he’s stood next to his son in a Team Sky jersey, and I grabbed it off him .”

” It wasn’t meant to be malicious or anything ,” Rowe said.” I don’t think he was too bothered .” Asked what he had done with the sign Rowe said:” It was laminated so, you are familiar with, #passonplastic- I put it straight in the recycling bin which is I suppose where it belongs. I don’t think I have to be sorry for anything, do I? It was no big deal- simply a bit of banter .”

However the fan, Didier Bregardes from Lorient, told another story.” The rider came over, quickly grabbed my placard and hurled it down ,” the Frenchman said.” I’ve nothing against Froome or the riders but it’s the waythe manager of Sky, Dave Brailsford, dealt with the Froome case. It’s insulting what Brailsford said about[ the UCI president David] Lappartient, about him being a mayor of a small town .”

For Team Sky their safety during the course of its Tour remains a concern, according to Brailsford.” We’ve got young women in the team that come and is in favour of VIPs and normally they drive around on their own, but I can’t allow that to happen in this race ,” he said.

But Brailsford was more conciliatory than earlier in the race.” It was blown out of proportion ,” he said of his comments on Lappartient.” I was just trying to address a few points- it wasn’t meant to be insulting, it wasn’t meant to be confrontational. It was just to try and raise awareness around the safety of our riders here in France. I think the mayor’s done a fantastic chore in his town, as all mayors are doing in their towns. I don’t want anybody to get the wrong objective of the stick .”

Chris Froome before stage five. Photograph: Benoit Tessier/ Reuters

But the man deposed by Lappartient in last year’s UCI general elections, Brian Cookson, bemoaned the public confrontation between the two men, describing him as an” own goal “.

” It is most important that all of us in positions of leadership respect each other and do not indulge in personal attacks ,” Cookson said.” We have all considered examples of unacceptable and dangerous behaviour on the roadside. We are often a heartbeat away from calamity .”

Wada afterwards issued a statement explaining why it chose not to appeal against the UCI’s decision not to assert an anti-doping violation against Froome, saying it” was taken based on the results of a full and careful its consideration of all explains and supporting evidence brought forward by Mr Froome in June 2018( which the UCI shared with Wada ), as well as thorough consulted in internal and external experts .”

Out on the road, along the hilly and twisting roads of Brittany, the repetition steep climbs took their toll. One of the first riders to struggle was Mark Cavendish, although he was soon joined at the back of the field by a rival sprinter, Marcel Kittel. Up at the front of the peloton, the fast finish to Quimper, which included the steep ramp of the Cote de Stang Vihan, considered the weeding out process of the overall challengers begin to take shape.

Bora-Hansgrohe’s Sagan had the most powerful sprint on the sinuous uphill finish, the Slovak passing contenders such as the Bahrain-Merida’s Italian rider Sonny Colbrelli and BMC’s yellow jersey wearer Greg Van Avermaet, of Belgium, to claim the 11 th Tour stage win of his career. Just behind him Sky’s Colombian Egan Bernal paced his leader Froome to the line, and there were the first flashings of sort from the 2014 Tour champion, Bahrain-Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali .” Everyone knew that was going to be a tricky finish today ,” Froome said.” But Tom Dumoulin is the guy that stands out at the moment as he’s still quite far ahead of me. His squad rode a good squad time-trial and he hasn’t lost period .”

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