What should have been a successful day on the lumpy transitional stage 14 from Rodez to Mende for Team Sky and the Tour de France maillot jaune Chris Froome was anything but. The overall race leader was hit with a cup of urine that was thrown by a spectator early in the stage.
"I saw the guy appear on a drag with 50-60km to go," Froome said of the incident. "I had teammates around me. I was boxed in a little bit on left. I saw a guy peering around and I thought, 'That looks strange.' He launched a cup at me and said 'dopée.' No mistake, it was urine."
In his post race press conference for the written press, Froome began by offering his congratulations to Steve Cummings of MTN-Qhubeka for his stage win on Mandela Day without any prompt from the press. Felicitations turned to umbrage for how particular sections of the press have created an atmosphere of suspicion surrounding the performance of Froome and Team Sky at the Tour.
"I certainly wouldn't blame the public for this. It really is the minority of the people out there ruining it for everyone else out here," Froome said. "But I would blame some of the reporting on the race that has been very irresponsible. Having said that, those individuals know who they are."
When quizzed on who was responsible for setting the nefarious tone, Froome was unwilling to point fingers, offering instead to reiterate such examples were unprofessional and perilous.
"Those individuals know who they are. I am not going into specifics details here but those people know who they are and have been extremely irresponsible on the way they have reported on the race," he said, insinuating the reporting had contributed to the spectators' actions.
"It's no longer the riders bringing the sport into disrespect now, it's the individuals, and they know who they are."
Froome's wife, Michelle, made a brief return to Twitter after the stage to provide the specifics the press were after, disappearing as quickly as she had resurfaced.
"@JalabertLaurent @cedvasseur @lequipe @festinaboy @scienceofsport I hope you're paying attention. Ignorant, irresponsible fools," Michelle Froome tweeted.
The reporting by some of the French press have included allegations of mechanical doping from Cedric Vassuer on live French television and videos released by Antoine Vayer that overlay data onto Froome's ride up Mont Ventoux in 2013 and during stage 16 of last year's Vuelta a España to La Farrapona.
Froome was not casting aspersions upon the entire pressroom in his comments, clarifying the majority of reporting has remained on message, covering cyclists and their daily feats on their bicycles.
"It's not all the media, a lot of reporting has been fantastic. It has been about the race as it should be," he said. "But obviously since my victory a few days ago and the way the team has been, I think there has been a lot very of irresponsible reporting out here. That's unacceptable also.
"I can't speak for everyone in the peloton. I certainly know myself, I am clean, I know what I've done to get here. Of course it's disappointing," he said. "What can we do? I feel from a rider's point of view, we are doing the right thing. We are trying to speak up in clean cycling, trying to change that image. Unfortunately, due to some of that reporting being so irresponsible, that negative image is still being portrayed to the public."
Michael Rasmussen, who was sacked by his Rabobank team while wearing the yellow jersey at the 2007 Tour de France, arrived at the race this morning in his new role as a journalist for Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet. Disgraced former seven time winner Lance Armstrong returned to the Tour - albeit one day head of the race - this week as well to take part in a part in Geoff Thomas' charity ride.
The presence of the two admitted dopers, along with several ex-professionals who admitted to cheating in their careers at the Tour has fed the flame of suspicion and contributed to the rationale for those singled out by Michelle Froome to produce their copy.
Froome has repeatedly stated that as the first winner of the Tour post-USADA's reasoned decision that exposed Armstrong, he is willing to do whatever it takes to get cycling back on a credible path. However, the 2013 Tour champion has become exasperated with the daily commits that accompany the maillot jaune and the repeated questions of whether he is a clean cyclist.
"If this is part of the process that we have to go through to get the sport into a better place, I am here, I am doing it. I am not going to give up the race because a few guys are shouting insults at whatever or me," he said.
"Unfortunately, this is the legacy that's been handed us by people before us with people who have won the Tour only to disappoint fans a few years later. That's an unfortunate position we are in."
In 2013 Mark Cavendish was also the victim of an urine attack, while in 2012 tacks where placed on the road in an attempt of sabotage. Oscar Freire and Julian Dean where shot at and hit by air rifle pellets in 2009.
With fans able to reach out and touch cyclists at almost any point on the road, the security of riders is constantly in question, but Froome was unequivocal in his response when asked if the behaviour of some fans frightened him?
"I am not scared about this. I just hope it doesn't interfere with racing. That's why we are all here, to race bikes at end of the day. I hope this doesn't interfere with how the race pans out at all. I am extremely focused on my job that I'm here to do. I am not going to let anything throw me off this year."
Buried by the urine attack and Froome's rebuttal of 'irresponsible reporting' was his sporting element during the stage, which ended with the Sky captain taking further time on his rivals. His closest challenger, Nairo Quinanta, sits 3:10 in arrears.