Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford has apologised for saying spitting is a "French cultural thing."
Brailsford said he was "pretty agitated" by the actions of spectators who spat at and inhibited riders when he made the comments Monday.
The French president of the UCI David Lappartient accused him of "pouring oil on the fire" as the relationship between fans and Team Sky turns increasingly volatile.
But Brailsford last night moved to relieve some of the tension that has built up during a fraught month in France by retracting his comments on French spectators:
"I'm a Francophile ... of course I don't believe that spitting is a French cultural thing, but my point was that we only get that kind of thing at the Tour de France," Brailsford said.
"My intention was never to criticise, just to draw some attention to the fact that I was getting pretty worried about our guys," he said.
Brailsford admitted he was still concerned about the security of his riders after Geraint Thomas extended his lead in the Tour despite reports he was grabbed by a spectator in the final few hundred metres of Wednesday's Stage 17, when he finished third.
Teammate Chris Froome -- who has also been the subject of heat from the crowds -- was later knocked off his bike on the way back to the team bus by a gendarme who mistook him for a fan.
While descending towards the Team Sky bus, Chris Froome was knocked down by a Gendarme- he was allegedly mistaken for a fan riding the course. #TDF2018— The Cycling Podcast (@cycling_podcast) July 25, 2018
📸: @albertsecall h/t @inrng pic.twitter.com/LNTzhaJlHV
The 2018 Tour has also seen riders affected by tear gas after police attempted to disperse a protest by farmers on Stage 16.
"The issue is security, and I was trying to bring that to everybody's attention" Brailsford said.
"I feel very strongly about the security of this team. I chose to bring young Egan [Bernal] here, and then half way through, I thought I might really regret that decision -- and that was nothing to do with racing his bike, or performance, it was just about the experience he was having."