July 20, 2018 / 4:57 PM / 8 months ago

I'd rather win and be booed than lose and be cheered, says Thomas

VALENCE, France, July 20 (Reuters) - Tour de France leader Geraint Thomas said being booed by the crowd did not affect him after he enjoyed a mainly comfortable 13th stage on Friday.

Cycling - Tour de France - The 169.5-km Stage 13 from Bourg d'Oisans to Valence - July 20, 2018 - Team Sky rider Geraint Thomas of Britain celebrates on the podium, wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The Team Sky rider and yellow jersey holder repeated his call for spectators to let the riders race safely.

“I had a few boos at the start but I just ignore it. Like I said, if it’s verbal it’s fine as long as it doesn’t affect the race,” Thomas, who leads team mate and fellow Briton Chris Froome by one minute 39 seconds, told a news conference.

“I’d rather be on the podium and be booed than on the bus and be cheered,” the Welshman added.

Thomas won at the top of the iconic Alpe d’Huez on Thursday to tighten his grip on the race as Team Sky bid for a one-two finish in Paris.

Sky are largely unpopular in France as their recent domination of the race revives memories of the rule of Lance Armstrong’s U.S. Postal in the early 2000s.

Four-times champion Froome is the main target for the French fans after he was cleared of a doping offense days before the start of the race.

On Friday, a flare was tossed across the peloton with less than 20 kilometers to go.

“We were in a zone, fighting for position, I had no idea (that a flare was thrown),” said Thomas, a double track cycling Olympic champion.

Frenchman Romain Bardet, one of the main title contenders who lies fifth overall and 3:07 off the pace, said the Tour was a popular party and should remain so.

“We are very accessible and people coming by the side of the road should not ruin it,” the AG2R-La Mondiale rider said.

Italian Vincenzo Nibali was forced to abandon the race with a fractured vertebra on Thursday after he appeared to be touched by a spectator.

Reporting by Julien Pretot, editing by Ed Osmond

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