Thursday, 25 July 2013

David Walsh is wrong about the Irish fans.

Some of you may have read the allegations by David Walsh in last weeks Sunday Times that Irish fans at Irish Corner 10 were involved in abusing Sky riders and team personnel.

This is completely untrue!

The following is the statement issued by myself and my fellow Irish Corner 10 originator in response to Mr Walsh.


As Irish fans who enjoyed a wonderful day at Irish Corner at Alpe D'Huez, we wish to refute the implication by David Walsh that Irish fans jeered or abused Chris Froome, or indeed any Sky rider, or that Irish fans were in any way responsible for the banner referred to. Had Mr Walsh bothered to either come to the corner, or check with any of us before tarring two whole nations worth of fans wth one brush, he might have produced a more balanced and accurate picture of events.

While corner 10 was to a large extent populated by Irish fans, clearly the road up Alpe D'Huez is open to any fan, of any nationality. As well as the hundreds of Irish fans there were people there from all corners of the globe. We personally spoke to fans from Belgium, France, UK, South Africa, Ivory Coast, Switzerland, USA and many more countries.

The vast majority of those fans, of all nationalities, were impeccably behaved and, as you'd expect, offered equal encouragement to all of the riders (although we did shout just a bit louder for Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche). It was clear from the smiles on many riders faces, including those from Sky, that they very much appreciated the encouragement they were getting. One of our abiding memories is the huge grin on the face of Peter Kennaugh as he rode past to huge cheers.

However, unfortunately for us, one camper van, which was parked at the corner for several days, contained a group of four French fans who it turned out were intent on targeting Sky. On the day before the race they made and erected several banners, none of which we understood, above the range of Irish flags we had put up. When we came to the corner on the day of the race we saw that they had then placed a banner, reading (in French) "Froome Dopé" very high on the wall at the corner. While we were very unhappy with this banner we could do nothing about it as it was too high for us to remove and we had no wish to provoke an incident. 

As the day progressed it became clear that these guys were intent on making an anti-doping stand and were targeting Sky in particular. They filled a child's swimming pool with water and had large syringes with which they were spraying the water on passing cyclists. However, when the first Sky car arrived they then produced a bucket and attempted to throw a full bucket of water through the window of the Sky car. Every Irish fan within earshot of me were horrified by this and looked to the three Gendarmes stationed on the corner to do something. They didn't.

A short time later, another Sky car got the same treatment, despite many Irish fans trying to warn them to close their windows. Again the Gendarmes did nothing. In fact we saw at least one of them smiling. 

As the race passed for the second time it seems the four French guys had another plan. They climbed into their van and, pictures clearly show, donned surgical gowns and masks. The assumption is they intended to run alongside Froome in these clothes. However, for some reason I couldn't see, they were unable to get out of their van on time and Froome passed unimpeded.

When they did emerge they were very angry and aggressive and targeted a young British fan whose van was parked beside theirs. They proceeded to attack him physically, also knocking off a rider, at which point the Gendarmes finally acted. The separated the French guys from the British guy, moving him across the road. One of the French guys, clearly out of control, then ran across and started attacking him again, punching several other fans in his rage. The police again separated them and moved the British fan further away so they could speak to him.

A short time later, all four of the French guys ran across the road again and proceeded to tear down a pro-Froome banner erected by the British fan and his family. The whole crowd boo-ed this. The French guys responded by making aggressive gestures at the crowd in general, willing someone to fight them. No-one did!

Things cooled down after that and the three Gendarmes kept the peace until the race was over. Later in the evening the four French guys were arrested and taken from the mountain by Police. Their van was still there the next morning.

It cannot be stressed enough that no Irish fan played any part in either the throwing of water, or anything else, at the Sky cars or in the melee that broke out, despite provocation by the enraged French guys. Instead the whole Irish crowd turned back to the race to await the arrival of Dan Martin and Nicolas Roche, the reasons we were there in the first place.

The following morning, at the start of stage 19 in Bourg D'Oisan, we and several other Irish fans, went out of our way to speak to Sky representatives, including David Brailsford. We clarified with him what had happened and stressed that Irish fans were in no way involved but were instead cheering the Sky riders as much as, if not more than, any other rider. This has been characterised as an "apology" by Mr Walsh. It is clear that no apology was needed from Irish fans but, if it's possible to apologise for the behaviour of complete strangers we would willingly offer that to Team Sky.

The hundreds, indeed thousands, of genuine, well behaved, Irish (and indeed Dutch) fans who enjoyed a great day out on Alpe D'Huez do not deserve to be branded hooligans by someone who wasn't there. 

If you'd like to see for yourself the great atmosphere at Irish Corner 10, have a look at our Facebook page or on this site

Ronan Fox
Stephen O'Shea



  1. The reason they couldn't get out if their van was because a group of British and Irish fans decided to try and stop them when they saw what they were doing a second time. Some of them blocked the door of their van while others ran for gendarmes. This is what caused them to attack the British guy and his family. In fact it was Irish and British fans protecting team sky and a few paid a high price.

  2. well done chaps and v well written statement too!

  3. Things cooled down after that and the three Gendarmes kept the peace until the race was over. spray pave melbourne