Geraint Thomas has become the first man to win up Alpe d’Huez with the yellow jersey on his shoulders as he extended his Tour de France lead amid unsavoury scenes and boos during the 12th stage.
Thomas, who took the yellow jersey when he won Wednesday’s 11th stage, prevailed again at top of the 21-hair-pinned climb, one of the most iconic of the Tour.
But the Welshman was heavily booed by the crowd at the podium ceremony while his Team Sky leader, fellow Briton and reigning champion Chris Froome, who finished fourth, was also jeered all the way up the famous ascent.
Froome was even slapped on the shoulder by an angry spectator who ran alongside.
“I didn’t see that… If people don’t like Sky and want to boo, boo all you like, but let us race,” Thomas told a news conference.
“Don’t touch the riders, let us race, don’t spit at us, have a bit of decency. Voice your opinion all you want but let us do the racing.
“Just boo, be vocal, that’s fine, but just don’t affect the race.”
— Ashleigh Gardner (@AshGardner1) July 19, 2018
Froome, a four-time Tour de France winner, tested positive for excessive levels of salbutamol during last year’s Vuelta a Espana, but the World Anti-Doping Agency concluded his results did not constitute an adverse analytical finding.
Thomas accelerated in the last stretch to beat Dutchman Tom Dumoulin and France’s Romain Bardet who were second and third, two and three seconds behind respectively. Froome was also three seconds off the pace as the boos came from the crowd.
The four-time champion was constantly jeered on the last stretch, a 13.8km effort on an average gradient of 7.9 per cent, with one spectator hitting him on the shoulder.
“Obviously it’s not nice (the boos) but everyone is entitled to their opinion, but we need to be safe,” Thomas said.
Overall, Thomas leads Froome by one minute 39 seconds and Dumoulin by 1:50.
Former champion Vincenzo Nibali crashed with about 4km left and ended seventh, 13 seconds off the pace.
Thomas said on Wednesday the four-time champion remained the team leader, but he appeared to be the strongest rider at Alpe d’Huez.
Three of the Tour’s top sprinters withdrew during stage 12.
Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen and Colombian Fernando Gaviria, winners of two stages each, had no fuel left in the tank.
German Andre Greipel also pulled out. Last year’s runner-up Rigoberto Uran abandoned the race prior to the start of the stage after failing to recover from injuries sustained in a crash on Sunday.