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Wheelers Enjoy “Irish Corner” but Refute David Walsh’s Comments

posted 26 Jul 2013, 10:50 by Kevin Monaghan   [ updated 26 Jul 2013, 12:41 ]
(By Mark Monaghan)    
Irish Corner
Last Thursday morning four members of Lakeside Wheelers Mullingar, cycled to “Irish Corner” on Alpe D’Huez to watch the Tour de France. 
This was their maiden trip to what is widely regarded as one of the most amazing sporting spectacles in the world and from the moment they arrived at the foot of this iconic mountain they were completely blown away by the atmosphere.  Cycling through thousands of fans of all nationalities the banter and good humour helped to ease the pain of the 10-14% gradients.

However, due to an article written by award winning sports journalist David Walsh in last weekend’s Sunday Times, they have become embroiled in a controversy that through no fault of their own, has brought embarrassment to them, their families and their club, Lakeside Wheelers Mullingar. Mr Walsh’s article, “Why I Believe In Chris Froome” included references to an anti Sky feeling amongst cycling supporters that stretched, he claims, to fans putting the Sky team under “siege” and involved eggs and beer cans being thrown at team vehicles as they drove up Alpe D’Huez.  Mr. Walsh stated that “The abuse was worst at those parts of the climb populated by Irish and Dutch fans”. He went on to state that one of the bigger banners on “Irish Corner” read “Froome Dope”.   Yes, there was a banner in place but what Mr Walsh either ignored or did not see was that the word “Dope” was written in French, dopé,  with the accent grave over the letter “e” as is used in the French language and indicating French ownership (see picture).

Mr Walsh further stated that he spoke with a Mr. Alan Farrell who is employed by Team Sky as a medical doctor and who himself told Walsh that he met with Irish fans in Bourg d’Oisans the following morning at the start of stage 19 and informed them that he was disappointed with the reaction to Sky riders.  The four Lakeside Wheelers were in Bourg d’Oisans that morning and spoke to Alan Farrell, and yes, he was incensed, but what Mr. Farrell did not know until they told him and explained clearly to him, was that the only abuse they witnessed towards any rider was from a group of French “supporters” who were on the opposite side of the road to them on the climb all day. These middle aged men, 4-6 in number, spent their entire morning squirting water from syringes at passing fans and when the Tour came along they resorted to throwing buckets of water from their inflatable swimming pool over and into team vehicles. At one stage they climbed the wire netting to the “Froome Dopé” banner to pose for photos around it. Between the first and second ascents of the Alpe they disappeared into their van to change into clothing commonly associated with medical or laboratory workers. It appeared they had intended to stage a protest as Chris Froome rode by.  When this tactic was sussed by a group of English fans they locked the French into their van until Froome had passed on the second ascent. However, due to their plans being scuppered by the English, the French became enraged and an all out brawl ensued between them and the English group leading to the French Police being called to the scene to quell this terrible incident. When Mr Farrell was made aware of this he declared that it was news to him. Does Mr Walsh know of this incident?

Mr Walsh also wrote, “A little later, four cyclists from Lakeside Cycling Club in Mullingar found Brailsford and told him they were sorry”. This statement is completely inaccurate and it has been interpreted by several people that the four Lakeside Wheelers cyclists were in some way involved in the unsavoury events which Mr. Walsh alleges took place.   Yes, they did speak to Dave Brailsford, the principal director of Team Sky but they did not look for him as is implied in Mr Walsh’s quote and they did not say sorry to him or any other person.  They met Mr. Braislford on the street and in the course of having their photo taken with him he mentioned the abuse of Team Sky on the Alpe.   They informed him of the fighting between the French and English and he actually thanked them for explaining this. However, he did state that some Irish fans gave the thumbs down symbol and booed the Sky team. They informed him they could not comment on this as none of the four of them witnessed any Irish fan act in any way negatively towards ANY rider, official or vehicle from ANY team on the Alpe or elsewhere.  

Since their return home, David Walsh has been contacted by email requesting him to speak with them to allow them to put the record straight but to date no reply has been received.