Reigning Tour de France champion Chris Froome is set to face further jeering and heckling at today’s team time trial.
The 35.5 kilometre course in and around Cholet in western France is the second shortest of the 2018 Tour, but it may seem a lot longer for Froome and his fellow Team Sky riders.
The four-time TDF champion has been subjected to jeering from spectators, who are convinced that he is not racing ‘clean’ following a controversial salbutamol case.
Froome returned a positive test for high levels of the asthma medication at the Vuelta Espana last year.
An investigation into the case has cleared Froome of any wrongdoing and allowed him to race unencumbered at the Tour, but the watching public is not convinced.
Given cycling’s reputation as a sport that is constantly tainted by performance-enhancing drug abuse, it’s hard to blame them.
Froome launched a charm offensive by placing an explanatory editorial in the daily newspaper Le Monde today, but whether it has taken hold remains to be seen.
The team time trial will give aggressive spectators the perfect opportunity to target Froome and Team Sky.
Thus far they have been protected in the middle of the dozens of riders which make up the peloton, but when they are out on the road as just eight individuals, they will be much more exposed to any abuse.
Froome has thus far shrugged off the jeering and insisted that he is focused on making up lost time after suffering a fall.
"The people have been great so far," Froome said at the start line on Sunday.
"This isn't the first time I've been a minute down or had to dig in, it's just racing, that's what we're here for," he said at the starting line.
Froome's loyal lieutenant, Welshman Geraint Thomas, brushed off the issue of the cheering at his captain's tumble.
"Chris is okay, he was relieved not to be hurt," he said when asked if Froome was affected by the fans' reaction.
Team boss Dave Brailsford was also avoiding thinking about fans and looking to the race.
"There is no doubt about it, there will be time gained and lost tomorrow [Monday]," he said.
"This is one stage where you have to push to the limit more than ever, but if you misgauge your effort you pay for it massively.
"You have to focus, we are aiming at getting perfect execution," he added. "The worrying comes afterwards.”