The 2018 edition of the Tour de France has been imbued with an unusual and strong tension between the public and the peloton. Team Sky was particularly targeted.
Ahead the third week of race, four-times Tour de France winner Chris Froome gave an interview to the French sports daily L'Equipe. He detailed the attacks he went through in this year's event.
"I've been booed, people threw things to me, some jostled me trying to knock me over and others punched me in the side. But I haven't received urine so far (he smiles)".
For Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford said the hostility towards the champions was "a French cultural thing".
However it's hard to paint such a portrait of the French as the "spectators along the roads aren't asked their passports" reminded the French UCI president David Lappartient while asking Brailsford not to nationalise the debate.
Most of the French are deeply against Froome's Team Sky though. It includes fans but also French riders, managers and journalists.
Here are four reasons why the French hate Team Sky.
1. Team Sky's stranglehold on the Tour: a dynasty in France
Team Sky won 6 of the last 7 Tour de France since 2012.
It's the first and most obvious reason of the French animosity for Sky. In the country where king's heads were cut off, attending the creation of a dynasty is hardly tolerable.
The team never misses a pretender to the throne. Geraint I has succeeded Christopher IV who is descending from Bradley I. Before Colombian prince Egan?
"The never-ending reign", L'Equipe
During a stage in the Pyrénées, a French TV commentator talked about a "white wall" to refer to the mighty team. It was back at the front of the peloton after a hopeless rebellion from the concurrent teams. The fortress was intact to protect its king.
Brailsford wondered why his team has troubles in France while the public was "fantastic" at the 2018 Giro and 2017 Vuelta. The answer is straightforward. Sky succeeded for the first time in these two Tours with Froome's win at their last edition.
However for the French the problem with the Team Sky isn't only its control over the race –and even not because they're British.
AG2R-La Mondiale manager Vincent Lavenu said that "Sky dominates like Nadal at Roland-Garros, but with him there isn't any hostility in France".
The Spanish won 11 times the French Open and is particularly liked by the French public.
It must be said that Sky suffers from the Tour history.
2. The weight of history: champion = suspect
2018 commemorates both the 20 years of the first French World Cup win and the less glorious Festina affair. And if the parallel occurred in football, the French is careful it doesn't happen again in cycling.
Suspicion is at the heart of cycling since these revelations and has been strengthened by the reign of Armstrong's US Postal.
The fastidiousness of Team Sky can remind the American team whose precise doping organisation is now known.
The time has passed and progress is continuous. But the method could be the same. For most of the French, the problem with Team Sky is moral.
3. Team Sky's lack of credibility: the problem is moral
The French newspaper Libération interviewed a sociologist in order to understand why Froome is hated by the French in spite of being cleared of doping by the UCI.
Sociologist Dominique Bodin explains that "Froome isn't judged on facts but according to morality".
"Sport, as it is, doesn't convey any values". It's the politicians and the journalists who don't think sports "concretely" he adds.
And it's here that Froome and Team Sky face limits of their winning strategy. The French newspaper Le Point considers "Sky plays with fire for years" by making the most of the legal loopholes.
Team Sky has always respected the rules concerning the therapeutic use exemption (TUE), the time-trial tracksuits and the exploitation of the other teams' discussions and data by decrypting their radio signals with a technology reserved for the army according to the Corriere della Sera.
But this borderline strategy creates confusion and troubles the French riders as well. Before the departure of this year's edition, one of them told Liberation that "Froome will end up by falling from a nudge".
According to an Odoxa survey done before the Tour, 62 percent of the French cycling fans reckoned that allowing Froome to compete in the 2018 edition "isn't normal".
For the Groupama-FDJ manager Marc Madiot there is a problem of communication. "Sky doesn't change it. They still present themselves as the victims".
But Sky has never crossed the line so far.
4. The French roster doesn't sing any more on the Tour OF France
For 7 years the yellow jersey has been on French shoulders only one day!
Before Tony Gallopin who wore the prestigious color for a single stage in 2014, the last French at the top of the GC is Thomas Voeckler in 2011. An eternity.
The French riders' lack of success on their own roads can explain the envy of the British team success. The 1986 Tour is the last won by a French with Bernard Hinault's fifth success.
Nevertheless the problem with Team Sky isn't only national chauvinism. The situation is similar at the tennis French Open (last French win in 1983) without the same animosity for the winner –as we said earlier.
Competing for the polka dot jersey can't be satisfying enough for the French public.
The inevitable consequence is a significant drop of the TV audiences.
Compared to the 5 years average, in 2018 the number of French viewers has lowered by 19 percent according to the economist Daam van Reeth. In Spain (43 percent) and UK (46 percent) the disinterest for the Tour is even clearer.
This trend must be analysed with caution as the World Cup outshone the beginning of the Tour. But we can still wonder about the event future.
Is Team Sky killing the Tour de France?