On a day that will go down in Tour de France history for the sheer pandemonium that ensued, two-time winner Chris Froome clung to the yellow jersey.
The 12th stage of the race had carnage written all over it long before the flag dropped yesterday — and even before race officials decided to shorten the stage by six kilometres because of gale-force winds at the summit where the peloton was scheduled to head.
However, nobody could have forecast the yellow jersey-clad and bike-less Froome running up the final few hundred metres to the finish at Chalet Reynard after a crazy pile-up involving a police motorbike.
With hundreds of thousands of spectators all leaning in for a look at the action as it was all kicking off, a bottleneck of people caused the motorbike to stop suddenly and ploughing into them from behind were three riders who were set on animating affairs; Froome, Richie Porte (BMC Racing team) and Dutchman Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo).
Froome’s bike broke with the impact and so he began running up the climb to the finish just ahead as he screamed into his earpiece for a spare bike.
However, as his team car was five kilometres back, he took one from a neutral service car, but his cleats weren’t compatible with the pedals and he had to wait until he received his own spare bike.
It looked like he’d lost the race lead, as the man in second starting the day, Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) escaped the bedlam and skipped away to finish ahead of his fellow Briton.
When the general classification was released Froome had slipped to sixth, some 53 seconds behind ‘new’ leader Yates, but race officials later reinstated the gaps the trio had on their rivals at the time of the incident, though that drew criticism, as riders and directeurs took to social media to protest the lack of security for the riders outside of the final few hundred metres on the Ventoux.
One of the most aggrieved was Mollema saying on twitter: “What’s going on? Seems like everybody gets time bonuses. I wonder what would have happened if I would have been the only one to go down...”
Froome on the other hand believed justice was served.
“Mount Ventoux always throws up something different and today was no exception,” said Froome after the stage.
“Obviously it’s really unfortunate what happened in the last couple of kilometres, but ultimately I think common sense has prevailed and the commissaires have come to the right decision, so I’d like to thank them for that.”
With a breakaway up the road when that ill-timed crash befell Froome, Thomas de Gendt survived to take victory for Lotto-Soudal just ahead of Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data).
For the first time, Ireland’s Dan Martin lost time and slipped back to ninth overall.
He is now 1:56 down on leader Froome, though the times between himself and everyone else in the top 10 remain the same, but all is not lost, he said: “I was good, but not good enough, and I must say I am gutted for losing some time.
“I lost a wheel when Sky decided to up the tempo, but I continued to ride hard, even if this meant going into the red. The Tour de France is not over, I’m not too far behind and I vow to fight. I’m the kind of rider who likes more a mountainous day than a big explosion effort, and fortunately such stages are yet to come.”
Riders will today take on a hilly 37.5km time-trial, more changes to the general classification on the cards.
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