I have no idea how to write this review. I have never seen anything like this – and I have never been so conflicted about the result. But first things first – and something that should not be forgotten – Thomas De Gendt conquered (most of) Ventoux today with a great breakaway win over Dimension Data’s Serge Pauwels and Cofidis’ Dani Navarro.
Rider of the raceEmbed from Getty Images
Before we get to the controversy, let us praise a great ride – and the sentiment behind it. Thomas De Gendt‘s win today on the shortened Ventoux stage was a gutsy ride – not unlike the only other grand tour stage win in his career, that of the Stelvio stage in the Giro d’Italia 2012. Seems he had a good feeling today – and went with it.
He traded attacks with Pauwels and Navarro after the other 11 riders were absorbed into the peloton (or more accurately, got caught and got dropped almost simultaneously) as they climbed the Provençal beast; got dropped, surged ahead, got caught, then finally in the last few hundred metres, got the gap over Pauwels that took him over the finish line first. In his post-stage interview, he dedicated the stage to his teammate, Stig Broeckx, who is still in a coma after being hit by a moto a few months back.
I dedicate this to Stig Broeckx. We think about him every day, and we hope that his situation gets better in the next days, weeks or months. We fight for Stig.
No doubt about it, Ventoux was a crazy place to be today. If not for the raging Mistral that was causing havoc up above the tree line, forcing the shortening of the race, then certainly for the crush of fans in the last few kilometres of the new finish – the majority of which was not barriered as it should have been. The crowd was a-crush around Richie Porte, Bauke Mollema and Chris Froome as they made their way up the climb, nearing the flamme rouge.
Reports say that a spectator fell into the path of the moto, causing the driver to brake suddenly. As you can see, there’s not a lot of room for error in this picture. And this is what happened.
Mollema quickly got up and disentangled and went on his way, and did Porte. Froome’s bike was crushed by the moto behind them and therefore he had nothing to ride, the team car minutes down the road and no teammates to give him their bike. So Froome, most probably in a panic, started running. Thinking about it, he probably started running to get to the barriered part of the course to make sure he was safe from both riders coming up and, dare I say it, the fans themselves.Embed from Getty Images
At this point, there’s some confusion around what happened. Reports had it that Henao caught up with him and offered him his own bike, but that the team car told him to wait, the bike was too small. So, if this is true, he did wait. Then the Mavic neutral service car got to him and offered him the first bike off the rack. (Told here by one of the guys in the Mavic’s car.) That was too small and he couldn’t clip in. So he ditched that bike too and waited for the Team Sky car to given him his spare bike.Embed from Getty Images
By the time he crossed the line, he’d lost more than a minute, therefore making Adam Yates the new leader of the GC and the top 10 looked like this.
There was much conjecture as to what should happen. They neutralised the race when Adam Yates ran into the collapsed flamme rouge, so there was talk that, because it wasn’t a mechanical, because it wasn’t the fault of the rider, the race should have been neutralised and the time gaps taken from the time of the crash. After much hemming and hawing, it was decided that Porte and Froome would get the same time as Mollema and the top 10 looked like this.
There was a great debate on Twitter as to whether the way the race played out should stand or whether, because it was fan encroachment/moto incident, Froome should not lose the yellow jersey. Now, I hate crashes and I hate that a lot of races are won/lost because of them. And I hate fan encroachments – the fact that more riders don’t get knocked off their bikes is a modern-day miracle, but at the end of the day, those are the conditions the race is ridden in. Barriers should have been put up sooner on today’s stage – no one is disputing that – but they weren’t. Not the fault of the riders, but that is the conditions that they rode in.
I’m not a Froome fan, but I don’t like to see any rider’s standing affected because of a crash. But that happens all the time – often through no fault of the rider. That’s racing. So. It begs the question, would the commissaires have done the same thing for any other rider in the race? Juan Antonio Flecha said that they’d never done it before (and he should know, being hit by a car in the 2011 Tour de France), why should they do it now? Because it was the yellow jersey? Well, surely that means that if they do it for the yellow jersey but no one else (would they have done it if this happened to Valverde and Quintana? I suspect not), they’ve intervened to the detriment of the others.
Adam Yates said in a post-stage interview that he wouldn’t have wanted to wear the yellow tomorrow if that was how it came to be on his shoulders. Which is a very honourable response to a clusterf**k of a stage. Yet Bauke Mollema said this:
Fair? Unfair? Biased? The right thing? Who knows. One thing is for sure, this has not been a ‘normal’ Tour. But perhaps now the UCI will get involved in making sure riding conditions are safer for the riders.
1 Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) 4:31:51
2 Serge Pauwels (Team Dimension-Data) +0:02
3 Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) +0:14
4 Stef Clement (IAM) +0:40
5 Sylvain Chavanel (Direct Energie) s/t
GC top 5
1 Chris Froome (Sky) 58:11:33
2 Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) +00:47
3 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) +0:54
4 Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) +00:56
5 Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) +1:15
All the jerseys
Leader’s jersey: Chris Froome (Sky)
Points jersey: Peter Sagan (Tinkoff)
KOM jersey: Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal)
Best Young Rider: Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange)
For full stage review: CyclingNews
Header image: © ASO/A.Broadway