Tour de Farce: Froome forced to RUN to the finish line in complete debacle

Sean Lee Columnist

By Sean Lee, Sean Lee is a Roar Expert

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28 Have your say

    Last night’s stage on the daunting slopes of Mont Ventoux should have provided the Tour de France with its most spectacular highlights. Instead we got a ridiculous farce.

    Race leader Chris Froome (Sky), Australia’s Richie Porte (BMC) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) had managed to drop pre-race favourite Nairo Quintana and break away from the main group of general classification contenders on the final climb of the day.

    But as they neared the finish line, things went horribly wrong.

    The already narrow road was made even tighter as unruly spectators overflowed onto the surface, squeezing around the riders and the accompanying motorbikes until there was no way through.

    The TV camera moto that was leading the trio up the hill came to a sudden halt as it was swamped by spectators. Porte, riding strongly in front of Froome and Mollema, had no time to react and slammed face first into the back of the motorbike, with Mollema and Froome crashing heavily over the top of him.

    Chaos ensued.

    While Mollema was able to get riding again, Porte’s bike was damaged and he was last seen waiting forlornly on the roadside waiting for help. Froome’s bike was also damaged, but rather than wait, he took off on foot, attempting to run to the finish line.

    The sight of the yellow jersey running through hordes of spectators was surreal, comical almost if not for the seriousness of the matter.

    When the neutral service vehicle finally fought its way through the surging throng of humanity, it gave Froome a bike that was way too small, and the gangly Brit was unable to clip into its pedals properly, let alone make any real headway on it.

    The group of riders that Froome had ridden so hard to break away from – Quintana included – rode straight past him. He persevered until the Team Sky car made its way to him, jumped on a spare bike better suited to his size, and finally made it to the finish line.

    He lost a huge chunk of time. When the provisional general classification results were announced, Froome had slipped to sixth overall, with a 53-second deficit to Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange). Those results also had Quintana jumping up to third place. Mollema, the only one of the trio involved in the crash to be able to keep riding, took over second place.

    Not surprisingly, heads were shaking all over the place and anger was simmering.

    The stage, which had already been shortened due to strong winds atop the exposed upper reaches of Mont Ventoux, had been spoiled. In fact, the validity of the whole race stood to be compromised.

    Yates was to move into yellow. Quintana would jump to third, now with a lead of 39 seconds over Froome, despite the latter having comprehensively dropped him.

    It just didn’t taste right.

    This was not a mechanical incident. This was not bad luck caused by a puncture. This was not a lapse in concentration that had caused a touch of wheels. It was not an error in judgement, or a lack of legs, or a hunger flat. Riders lose time because of those things at every race. It might be frustrating, but that’s cycling.

    This incident though was caused by spectators crowding the course and a motorbike that found itself trapped with nowhere to go, wiping out the very cyclists that had made the race the contest that it was. To penalise them would have stunk and I am sure that Yates would not have felt comfortable being presented with the yellow jersey.

    Thankfully, sanity prevailed and Froome and Porte were awarded the same finishing time as Mollema, in a similar fashion to how the three-kilometre rule works on sprint stages.

    The revised general classification put Froome back in yellow, leaving Yates in second position at 47 seconds, Mollema third at 56 seconds and Quintana fourth at 1:01. Porte jumped up to 11th place at 2:22.

    It was a ruling that the race organisers had to make and I think they got it right. It was a better option than neutralising the whole stage, or worse still, doing nothing.

    A precedent was set on Stage 7 when Yates had gained time on the chasing peloton only to be knocked off his bike by a deflating archway. After a protest by his team, he was awarded the time gap he had gained before the crash.

    But really, this is something that shouldn’t happen. There has been a spate of spectator and vehicular interference with riders over the past couple of years, sometimes with dire consequences. Lives have been lost and serious injuries sustained. It can’t be allowed to continue.

    The time has come for barriers to extend all the way down the popular mountain climbs and to other places where high spectator numbers can be expected. Motorbikes and other vehicles must also be restricted. Yes, motos are the reasons why we get glorious cycling photos and brilliant television footage, but a rider’s life and livelihood have to come first.

    It has been talked about and talked about and talked about over the last few years. It is time some action was taken.

    Maybe this embarrassing incident at the world’s biggest and highest profile race will finally be the catalyst for change.

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    The Crowd Says (28)

    • July 15th 2016 @ 7:01am
      Vivalasvegan said | July 15th 2016 @ 7:01am | ! Report

      You are spot on Sean. Totally gutted by this shambolic outcome. I know it is a special part of the tour, getting so close to the riders etc, but the idiots are getting closer, there are more of them, and they pay no attention to what is going on. More barriers, more stewards and less obese clowns in mankinis ruining a global spectacle. Looking more like the Pamploma bull run. I sit on the couch fuming every classic stage. Teams should boycott the race until our stars get the protection they require. It’s bloody dangerous enough without a naked Asterisk the Gaul getting in your grille.

      • Columnist

        July 15th 2016 @ 12:51pm
        Sean Lee said | July 15th 2016 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

        I actually felt sick in the stomach at the end of that stage. Sick in the stomach and angry. It was an absolute joke. To have the biggest bike race in the world potentially ruined by disrespectful fans makes cycling a laughing stock. The riders deserve better.

        • July 15th 2016 @ 1:05pm
          Tom M said | July 15th 2016 @ 1:05pm | ! Report

          reminded me of when a fan threw thumbtacks all over the road at the top of a climb a few years back

        • July 15th 2016 @ 2:06pm
          Albo said | July 15th 2016 @ 2:06pm | ! Report

          Yep ! Only surprise is that this hasn’t happened many more times in recent tours !
          The fools on the hills will cause more strife before this tour is over.
          There are just too many fool spectators to be able to police it for the safety of the riders.

      • July 15th 2016 @ 5:02pm
        Dianne Andrews said | July 15th 2016 @ 5:02pm | ! Report

        Agree absolutely Viva, a boycott seems to be the best way to get the organisers to do something about protecting these elite sportsmen. The sport is tough enough without having to dodge lunatics (obese clowns in mankinis lol)

    • July 15th 2016 @ 7:52am
      Big Steve said | July 15th 2016 @ 7:52am | ! Report

      the lack of understanding a respect shown by supporters is disgusting and getting worse. there is absolutely no need to run along side a rider fist pumping and screaming in their face. another rider last night tried to push someone away similar to the froome incident on an earlier stage. any real supporter shpuld understand what they are going through and have enough respect to show support in a more passive way.

      secondly is all the people standing on the road often forcing the rider to change their line going up hill as the block half the road. not sure they can barrier a whole climb logistically. some are over 20kms. maybe they can close the roles earlier or start fining people who stand on the road.

      guys like porte have been unable lucky already and probably hurt him the most last night. while it was an OK solution to get mollema’s time. he would have pick up significantly more if the three raced to the line. these guys train their whole life for these few races and it’s destroyed by idiots. I feel really bad for him especially.

      • Columnist

        July 15th 2016 @ 11:53am
        Geoff Parkes said | July 15th 2016 @ 11:53am | ! Report

        I agree Steve, if they wanted to be completely fair about it they should have also taken into account the number of seconds Mollema lost on the ground and getting going again. It’s one thing to give Froome and Porte his time, but the gap would actually have been a bit wider.

        But nevertheless, a much better outcome than doing nothing.

        Given the distance of the race I’d imagine it would be almost impossible to put barriers up on all climbs. And even if they did, the idiots will still find a way around it anyway. Any solution requires a massive culture and attitude change, but I’m not sure how that could be achieved. What is interesting also, is that many of the riders still speak up in favour of having the crowds close. George Bennett took a heavy hit at the bottom of the Arcalis but was quick to say that he enjoys and feeds off the crowd being so close. So go figure.

        One other point – it was complete chaos as it happened, but even with that as an excuse, the TV coverage was less than stellar. There was clearly vision available that we weren’t seeing live.

      • Columnist

        July 15th 2016 @ 1:01pm
        Sean Lee said | July 15th 2016 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

        I think the seven kilometres of the climb that they didn’t do still had barriers, so they could have moved at least part of that further down the mountain. I suppose the shortening of the climb also saw the supporters bunched up more, eg they had seven less kilometres to spread out along. Lets hope the organisers learn something from this and take steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

    • Roar Guru

      July 15th 2016 @ 9:10am
      Scott Pryde said | July 15th 2016 @ 9:10am | ! Report

      That was just the craziest thing I have ever seen in a bike race, bar none. Absolutely farcial.

      At least they decided to give Froome and Porte the same time. Doesnt make it any better though.

      • Columnist

        July 15th 2016 @ 1:04pm
        Sean Lee said | July 15th 2016 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

        Yeah, as much as I would love to see Adam Yates go into the yellow jersey, it would have been by default had the provisional results stood last night. I am sure he wouldn’t have been comfortable accepting it either. I couldn’t believe what I was watching. What a farce. More embarrassement for cycling.

        • Roar Guru

          July 15th 2016 @ 1:56pm
          Scott Pryde said | July 15th 2016 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

          The only winners out of this were Astana! They could have been in all sorts for the whole following of cars and sticky bidon incident… Instead Aru didn’t cop any penalties at all.

          • Roar Guru

            July 15th 2016 @ 2:08pm
            HardcorePrawn said | July 15th 2016 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

            I’d forgotten all about that! Aru seemed to deliberately ignore the commissaire too.
            The commentary team (still Matt and Robbie at that point I think?) were rather incredulous at what they were watching and fully expected a punishment, but nothing…

            • Columnist

              July 15th 2016 @ 3:18pm
              Sean Lee said | July 15th 2016 @ 3:18pm | ! Report

              I feel sorry for Thomas de Gendt as well. His win has been forgotten about in all this too! When we think back on this stage it will be the Froome/Porte/Mollema incident that we remember, not de Gendt! That’s harsh.

        • Roar Guru

          July 15th 2016 @ 9:59pm
          Sam Brown said | July 15th 2016 @ 9:59pm | ! Report

          I doubt Yates would have wanted to get the Yellow Jersey because of that abomination of an incident.

          • July 16th 2016 @ 8:29pm
            Simoc said | July 16th 2016 @ 8:29pm | ! Report

            Yates was happy with the ruling after the race. He said he wanted to win the race with his legs (not through a farcical incident).

    • July 15th 2016 @ 9:22am
      PB said | July 15th 2016 @ 9:22am | ! Report

      A complete joke. European fans are notoriously crazy, but it will take someone getting killed before they do anything – just like Group B rallying back in the 80s. I don’t think it would take much. Taped off barriers along the main spectator parts of the route like MTB races would do. Obviously it won’t stop everyone, but most people would respect the barrier. Then arrest the ones that don’t.

    • July 15th 2016 @ 9:24am
      Kevin said | July 15th 2016 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      Yeah crazy stuff. Validated my decision to stay up and watch the mountain top finish. I agree they made the right call.

    • Roar Guru

      July 15th 2016 @ 9:59am
      HardcorePrawn said | July 15th 2016 @ 9:59am | ! Report

      That was a truly weird stage. Like many others I was nonplussed at what I was watching, and it had me wondering if the riders are even allowed to progress without a bike.

      My first thought though, was that, given the heightened security in France, why are they still permitting this over-crowding of the course to happen? I was in Paris a few years ago (well before the attacks at Charlie Hebdo, the Bataclan etc.) and all the tourist spots had armed soldiers patrolling them. People behaving a little unruly around the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and other high profile areas attracted the attention of these troops, and had them moving closer and readying their machine-guns. But boisterous spectators are permitted to effectively stop the race by blocking the route of the motorbikes, and to get in the face of the riders.
      With the events of last night, and in light of horror stories coming out of Nice this morning, how soon before the authorities lock down the Tour and keep the spectators well away from the route?

      • Roar Guru

        July 15th 2016 @ 10:48am
        delbeato said | July 15th 2016 @ 10:48am | ! Report

        I haven’t been, but I believe there is a fair amount of security at the Tour. The riders are quite exposed, but without putting too fine a point on it – there are easier targets than the Tour. Terrorists tend to prefer soft targets. It is a worry, but then any attack is a worry.

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