Froome keeps lead af­ter race ‘may­hem’

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - AN­DREW DAMPF

MONT VEN­TOUX, FRANCE — On Bastille Day, fans cre­ated havoc at the Tour de France like never be­fore.

Storm­ing the road on France’s na­tional day, the crowd prompted a crash in­volv­ing race leader Chris Froome and it wasn’t un­til hours af­ter the wacky 12th stage con­cluded that or­ga­niz­ers de­cided the Bri­tish rider could keep the yel­low jer­sey.

“Mont Ven­toux al­ways throws up some­thing dif­fer­ent, and to­day was no ex­cep­tion,” Froome said. “You al­ways have to ex­pect the un­ex­pected at the Tour.”

In a com­plete em­bar­rass­ment for cy­cling’s big­gest race, Richie Porte crashed head­first into a mo­tor­bike car­ry­ing a TV cam­era, and Froome, who was right be­hind his for­mer team­mate, also hit the pave­ment in the fi­nal kilo­me­tre on the wind-short­ened climb up leg­endary Mont Ven­toux.

“The crowd was just all on the road, and a mo­tor­bike stopped right in front of us and we had nowhere to go,” Porte said. “The next minute, I went straight over the top of the mo­tor­bike. It was just a mess.”

Last week, Froome punched the face of a spec­ta­tor who got too close to the race.

“I agree that you come to the race, you have a good time, but you don’t need to be run­ning be­side the riders, you don’t need to hit­ting riders, push­ing riders,” said Porte, who was ex­am­ined for pos­si­ble in­juries.

The wind pre­vented or­ga­niz­ers from erect­ing the usual bar­ri­ers at the end of most stages, Tour di­rec­tor Chris­tian Prud­homme ex­plained. “We took an ex­cep­tional de­ci­sion be­cause of this ex­cep­tional sit­u­a­tion, an in­ci­dent that might have never hap­pened be­fore in 100 years,” he said. “There will be an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to find out why the TV mo­tor­bike was blocked and the riders fell.”

Af­ter the crash, Froome threw his man­gled bike aside and be­gan run­ning up the road. He even­tu­ally was given a small yel­low race as­sis­tance bike be­fore his team car was fi­nally able to pro­vide him with a suit­able sub­sti­tute.

All of Froome’s main ri­vals crossed ahead of him, and Froome shook his head in dis­be­lief when he fi­nally reached the fin­ish.

As Froome ran through the crowds, he at­tempted to com­mu­ni­cate with his team via ra­dio but the crowds pre­vented the Team Sky car from reach­ing him.

“It was a night­mare,” Sky sports di­rec­tor Ni­co­las Por­tal said. “It took up to two min­utes for him to get a spare bike but the pedals did not suit him . ... I can’t un­der­stand how so many peo­ple were al­lowed there. It was may­hem.”

Be­fore the crash, Froome dropped most of his ri­vals apart from Porte and Bauke Mollema.

The race jury even­tu­ally de­cided to give Froome and Porte the same stage time as Mollema.

Thomas De Gendt won the stage af­ter get­ting into an early break­away and eas­ily sprint­ing past fel­low Bel­gian Serge Pauwels on the steep slopes of Ven­toux.

With the wind at 125 kilo­me­tres per hour on top of the “Gi­ant of Provence,” or­ga­niz­ers moved the fin­ish line six kilo­me­tres down the road to the Chalet Rey­nard. It was still a gru­elling 10-kilo­me­tre climb fea­tur­ing sev­eral sec­tions with gra­di­ents ex­ceed­ing 10 per cent.

It was De Gendt’s first ca­reer stage win in the Tour.

BERNARD PAPON, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Chris Froome, wear­ing the over­all leader’s yel­low jer­sey, runs with his bike af­ter he crashed at the end of Thurs­day’s stage of the Tour de France.

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