Chris Froome appeared to have the Tour de France by the balls through most of this afternoon’s mountain stage up to Mount Ventoux, parrying away Nairo Quintana’s first attack and dropping everyone who posed a threat to his Tour on the final climb. While distancing Quintana and the rest of the general classification contenders in a small group with Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema, a television motorbike slowed down abruptly. Porte couldn’t get around him because of the tunnel of fans surrounding everyone, and he fell face first into the motorbike, bringing down Mollema and Froome with him.
Porte took off, and Mollema managed to get up rather quickly and press on, but Froome, the defending champion and race leader, lost his bike to a mechanical problem. So he took the fuck off, running up the hill in his cycling shoes. This is against the rules, technically, but given the circumstances, waiting for a bike change could have cost Froome minutes and his entire Tour, so he went into panic mode. Illegal or not, running in cycling shoes on a hard road surface is impressive as an athletic feat alone—most people have trouble even walking in them.
Froome then got a replacement bike, but it was improperly calibrated, and he almost crashed while trying to get out of the saddle. Eventually, he managed to get the right Pinarello, but by the time he had crossed the line, he’d lost his advantage and been passed by everyone. He is now in sixth, 40 seconds behind Nairo Quintana, and 53 seconds out of the yellow jersey.
The congestion on Mount Ventoux was a byproduct of the Tour’s organizers choosing to shorten the final climb by six kilometers, thus clogging the roads with more fans than the race could handle. The Tour has had problems with fans getting too close, and Froome himself knocked a Colombian flag-waver out a few days ago. It’s currently unclear what action the Tour will take against Froome for running up the road, or if they will choose to reward him for his misfortune. American Tejay van Garderen made the case for Froome getting reimbursed some of the time he lost, and Peter Stetina said he saw a French police officer punching fans out to keep them off the road and that it still didn’t work.
There’s also the consideration that Froome’s riders should have waited for him, since he was holding the yellow jersey and fell through no fault of his own. That said, there is already not enough room on the mountain for the riders to ride in a straight line, and a group of riders waiting for Froome to get back on a bike would have made it even worse. The jury is deliberating, and we’ll update this post when they make their ruling.
Update (11:54 p.m.): Uh, Froome says he’ll keep the jersey.
The Tour apparently gave Froome back all of the time he lost, so he leads Yates by 47 seconds and 1:01 ahead of Quintana.