Froome keeps lead after race ‘mayhem’
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.
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.