Froome is making strides despite Tour crash chaos
The Tour de France was plunged into chaos of an utterly unknown order yesterday when Chris Froome, the race leader, was entangled in a late crash and forced to run up part of the Mont Ventoux climb without a bike.
Froome finally finished on a replacement bike and, having provisionally lost the yellow jersey, was re-awarded the lead.
He now leads by 47 seconds from Adam Yates, with Bauke Mollema third at 56 seconds behind. The distance he ran was estimated at not more than 200m of a 10km climb, but the questions raised by such a bizarre series of incidents will reverberate for months to come.
The Tour has had to face up to serious trouble in the past when it has been halted briefly by riders going on strike.
But yesterday's scenario, and the questions it raises, was of a different nature altogether. For the first time in the race's 113-year-history, a Tour leader was unable to use his bike after a crash and was forced to run uphill in order to try to limit the gap as much as possible.
The crash itself was caused, apparently, by spectators spilling over onto the road and the motorbikes getting forced to slow to a near halt. Froome's rival Richie Porte crashed into one and, as Froome slammed on the brakes, another motorbike struck the Briton from behind.
All three riders involved -Porte, Froome and Mollema - were initially unable to continue, but Froome was the only one with a broken bike - so he ran.
There have been incidents involving the Tour's leader and spectators before that have, indirectly, affected the outcome of the race. The most notorious affected Eddy Merckx in 1975, who was battling for the Tour for a record-breaking sixth time when he was punched in the stomach by a fan.
Merckx would later claim the blow would cost him the Tour, which he never won again.
After his brief run, Froome finally remounted one bike provided by a neutral service repair vehicle some 400m from the line - but it was too small and he had to wait for another.
The gap created - one minute and 40 seconds - meant he initially lost the leader's jersey according to provisional results, although he was re-awarded it.
Riders agreed that such an event should not have caused Froome to lose the jersey, with Yates, the Bury-born pro who was briefly named as provisional leader, saying that he would "not have wanted the yellow in a way like that". But yesterday's events re-open the question of how to run a world level event which is so open to the public.
Froome said: "Ventoux is full of surprises. With about 1.2km to go the motorbike slammed on its brakes - the road was blocked in front - and the three of us just ran into the motorbike and another motorbike ploughed into me, breaking my bike's frame.
"I just started running. I knew the car was stuck and was five minutes behind. I think it was a fair decision and I want to thank the jury and the organisation. It was the right decision."
Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford played down the incident, saying "nobody tried to do it, it was unintentional and we should stay calm and not over-react".