Teams paid to race, not to heed unwritten rules: LeMond

Marcel Kittel of Germany during the 11th stage of the Tour de France yesterday. He won the 203.5km ride from Eymet to Pau - his fifth Tour stage win and the 14th of his career.
Marcel Kittel of Germany during the 11th stage of the Tour de France yesterday. He won the 203.5km ride from Eymet to Pau - his fifth Tour stage win and the 14th of his career.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

BERGERAC (France) • Most of the Tour de France riders have lost their ability to race and their sponsors should be asking for their money back, three-time champion Greg LeMond said on Tuesday as he lashed out against the "unwritten rules" of cycling.

In an action-packed ninth stage on Sunday, Astana's Fabio Aru attacked Team Sky's Chris Froome 6km from the top of the key climb of the day as the race leader raised his arm for assistance, later saying he had a mechanical problem.

"There should never be an unwritten rule that you should stop. Sponsors are paying millions of dollars to get performances," LeMond, on the Tour as an analyst for Eurosport, said in a daily chat with Reuters.

"If the race is on, it does not matter what happens to the yellow jersey, he's got a team and that's what a team is for," added the American, who won the Tour in 1986, 1989 and 1990.

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After Aru made his move, he was followed by most of the main contenders while Froome was changing his bike, but Australian Richie Porte and Ireland's Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors) talked to the Italian to slow him down.

BMC Racing leader Porte later abandoned the race after crashing in the final descent. Aru did not follow up on his attack and Froome caught them - ending the stage in third place and collecting four seconds in time bonuses.

One team, however, went on ahead. AG2R-La Mondiale took all risks in the descents to set up Romain Bardet for the stage win and it almost paid off, last year's runner-up being caught only 2km from the finish line.

Said: LeMond of BMC: "These guys should perform for their sponsor. I would ask for some money back."

Yesterday's 11th stage, featuring one fourth-category climb in 203.5km from Eymet to Pau, was another flat stage fit for sprinters.

German Marcel Kittel of Quick-Step Floors claimed his fifth Tour stage win and the 14th of his career as Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen (LottoNL-Jumbo) finished second.

Froome ended safely back in the bunch to retain his leader's yellow jersey.

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

TOUR DE FRANCE
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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2017, with the headline 'Teams paid to race, not to heed unwritten rules: LeMond'. Print Edition | Subscribe