By Guest Contributor: Tristan Stock
As the 2013 Tour de France nears it’s conclusion on the Champs Elysees this Sunday, the question needs to be asked – why have Chris Froome and Team Sky come in for so much criticism and animosity from the French press and the French public?
Three weeks ago on the start line at Porto Vecchio, I was lucky enough to be at the side of the road opposite the podium where the riders were officially “presented” before making the ceremonial launch into stage one.
With shameless patriotism (my wife was wrapped in the Union Jack), when the Sky riders appeared before us I shouted “Come on Team Sky”, and was instantly shot a withering stare by the Frenchman next to me who tut-tutted me with these words:
“Non … Non … Pas Team Sky”.
He was probably delighted when Chris Froome then fell over in the neutral zone before the Grand Depart, which remains almost the worst thing that has happened to the current Yellow Jersey holder in the subsequent 19 stages.
Certainly the worst thing on the road.
Off the road, Chris Froome and Dave Brailsford have had to face questions from the French media on a daily basis which stem from one issue – they think Chris Froome is too good to be true.
For certain, the legacy of Lance Armstrong is too recent to take any heroic cycling performance at face value.
But even so, the targetting of Chris Froome and Team Sky is bordering on the xenophobic.
With or without doping, Team Sky have thrown a load of money and science at building a grand tour team which is capable of sweeping the rest before it.
And they have built the team with the clearest, most stringent anti-doping policy in cycling.
Their team bus puts some F1 teams to shame, their dieticians and chefs are the best in the business, and their preparation and attention to detail is legendary.
At this level of sport, minute details matter, and Sky have every detail logged, analysed and countered.
The traditionalists laughed when Team Sky started from scratch in 2009 with the aim of winning the TdF within 5 years.
When Bradley Wiggins triumphed 12 months ago it put a lot of noses out of joint. Sky’s methodology of controlling the pace of the peleton and supposedly winning stages and tours without flair or daring annoys some fans – it’s like Sam Allardyce football versus the Beautiful Game.
But the real origin of the criticism lies elsewhere – this might not be France’s national sport, but it is their national sporting highlight.
If the French put a cricket team together that rocked up at Lords and won a Test Match against the hosts, our media would probably be asking similar questions.
In this case, the answers are Dave Brailsford, money and expertise.
Team Sky have arrived and done something better than anyone else in their field – and that isn’t popular unless you are wrapped in the Union Jack.
Good luck for the last two stages Chris Froome.
Picture Credit: Michellecound Wikipedia Commons