If you thought Chris Froome looked awful on a bike, you might have been shocked by how much worse he looked jogging up Mont Ventoux in a pair of carbon-soled road shoes, like some great wading bird frightened from its marshy hiding place, or a giraffe galloping away from a lion’s pride.
Here’s what seems to have happened. Race organizers made a very late decision to move the finish from the mountain’s top to lower on the slope to limit the danger to riders from unusually high winds. The consequences of that decision included, first concentrating spectators into a smaller space along the course, and second, not allowing road crews enough time to move protective barriers further down from the modified finish spot.
More people, in a smaller space, with fewer barriers between them and the riders.
And so, with Froome on a late break from the leading group, Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema in tow (actually Porte was on the front), the crowd seems to have swamped the road, forcing the television moto broadcasting the action to stop dead. Porte then ran full speed into the moto, Froome into Porte, Mollema into Froome, with a further moto coming up behind, delivering the coup de grace to Froome’s bike.
Mollema was up quickly, back on his bike and plowing upward. Porte followed. Froome, in a panic, began to run up the mountain without a teammate or team car in sight. Eventually, Mavic neutral service gave him a too small bike with the wrong pedals, and he wobbled upward on that for not a full minute before finally getting a replacement from his late arriving team car (due to the crowed-swamped route). Tragedy, comedy, farce, all in the space of 60 seconds.
The chronology of events on the road produced a shuffling of the GC standings, Adam Yates assuming the yellow jersey, barring some intervention by the UCI. Then the UCI intervened, gave Froome the same time as Porte and Mollema, put Quintana, Yates, van Garderen and Valverde all on the same time, and that means Froome still in yellow.
For his part, Yates was gracious, acknowledging that it would be unbecoming to earn a first yellow jersey by virtue of a moto crash. He didn’t even complain about being given the same time as the three other riders he had legitimately gapped at the end, albeit by just 6 seconds. The only one who complained was Mollema, who rightly argued that he had, in the course of what they all assumed was normal racing, finished well ahead of Porte. I confess to agreeing with the Dutchman.
This week’s Group Ride asks simply, did the right thing happen here? Or was this a case of two wrongs (the late call to move the finish AND the moto crash) being made right by an arbitrary administrative maneuver? Does any of it matter in light of the TT results from this morning, where Froome reestablished himself as the preeminent stage racer of the day?