French rider Romain Bardet has told local fans to stop booing Chris Froome as the Team Sky star battles the peloton and roadside jeers in his bid for a fourth Tour de France title.
Froome pulled off a remarkable recovery act to retain his hold on the yellow jersey on Sunday's 15th stage, making up almost a minute to Bardet and Fabio Aru on the Col de Peyra Taillade after suffering a mechanical problem that forced him to change bike.
Local fans booed and jeered Froome as he tried to make up ground, while he had urine thrown at him during the 2015 event amid allegations of doping.
Bardet was moved to apologise for his shabby treatment.
"I heard that Chris Froome had been abused at times during yesterday's stage. I'm sorry about that," the Frenchman told a news conference during Monday's rest day.
"He is a champion and he deserves respect. I respect him as an opponent and he does not deserve that kind of treatment."
The three-time champion retains an 18-second lead over Aru, while Bardet is a further five seconds back.
Having overcome a mighty obstacle on Sunday, Froome believes he is now well-set to stay in the yellow jersey, thanks to a much-needed rest day on Monday.
"I certainly feel as if I'm on an upward curve," Froome said.
"I came in with the least amount of race days ever coming into a Tour de France. I really do feel as if I'm coming up and the last few days have been evidence of that.
"I had a bad day in the Pyrenees about a week ago but hopefully I'm on track to be at my best in the last week."
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