Friday Group Ride #320

Friday Group Ride #320

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?


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  1. Tom in Albany

    It’s a matter of perspective. Some will be pleased some will be disappointed and some will be more l’aissez-faire. As today’s winner, Tom Dumoulin acknowledged, it’s just sport. What matters is what happened in Nice.

  2. Nik

    The crows invading the race course are unbearable and infuriating. It’s sad that people have to race in these conditions.

  3. Josh

    Ultimately UCI failed when moving the finish down 6 or so kilometers. That is 6km worth of fans on Bastille day being crammed even further down the mountains. Inexplicably only 200m of the finish was barricaded so there is no question why the crowds were as dense as they were yesterday. Fans obstruction riders, running in their faces, etc. have long since been a part of this sport and there is no great way to deal with this except to stop fining the riders for punching them when the get in the way (Froome).

    The UCI should have made a simple 1km time cut or instituted a post-race 3km rule for times to avoid all issues. Sure Mollema recovered and finished well ahead of Porte and Froome but this is a very similar instance to when Lance was pulled down by a fan and Ulrich would not slow down until he was forced to. Mollema in all proper ethics should not continue racing since the crash was caused by circumstances not related to falling off pace, crashing, mechanicals, etc. Because the UCI ruled the way they did, it opens the arguments for riders like Mollema and Yates to argue their respective time gaps.

    Finally, as Tom in Albany stated, what is most important is Nice, and our prayers and thoughts should be with those families and friends.

  4. Dan

    The Porte/Froome/Mollema accident is simply part of racing. It is the responsibility of the rider to ride at a speed that is safe for conditions. Porte seems to be too close to the motorcycle and going too fast. If he was riding at a reasonable distance and speed he clearly had enough room on the right to get past the motorcycle. In turn, Froome and Mollema were riding too fast, too close to Porte. There was no reason for them to crash. There is no 3 km. rule for a mountain finish so they get the actual time that they crossed the finish line. Froome can run but not without his bike. Froome should have been DQ’d or given a time penalty for leaving his bicycle. Quintana should have been DQ’d for being towed through the crash scene on the back of a Mavic neutral support motorcycle. The rules must be applied for everyone. We cannot have exceptions just because the yellow jersey or guys high on GC are involved.

    1. Rod

      Dan – I disagree. There is no 3 km rule but that is arbitrary – and so is rule 2.2.029 that says commissars may apply rules at their discretion. Which they did.

      This was a gong show, and so I think it’s justifiable to apply a version of the 3 km rule for this madness. Sure, races are unpredictably but I think we can all agree this was beyond the “normal” incidents.

      As for disqualifications – it’s also illegal to cut the course, but racers do it when circumstances dictate. Beloki crashed heavily in 2003 and famously Armstrong went across the grass instead of the switchbacks, doing a dismount, jumping a ditch and rejoining the road. I don’t think anyone thinks he should have been disqualified for that.

    2. Andrew

      The problem with the “it’s just a part of racing” argument is the whole can of worms it opens up for parochial fans of one rider to begin to deliberately hinder (by various means) that rider’s adversaries and get the disadvantage swept under the “it’s just part of racing” rug.

      The other problem with advocating for better crowd control also has it’s issues.
      – The “idiots” will just move to outside the controlled zones unless the route is, somehow, completely fenced.
      – Part of the attraction of road racing is how close and uninterrupted the fans access is to the contest. What other event can boast an average of 700,000+ **live** spectators per day? Sure this means you’ll get casual, un/less-informed and sometimes careless spectators, but isn’t this also part of the appeal? The open access to the broader community, and the additional reach this provides for the sport’s general attraction and revenue base from advertising.
      – Even in places where a Gendarmes’ (police) motorbike proceeds the racers by 20 metres or so the spectators still surge back in behind the motorbike and before the the riders.
      – This is France/Europe and they often do things differently to the English-speaking world. This too I think should be part of the appeal, recognising and celebrating the different-ness. Rather than attempting to make them more like “us”, whoever us and our standards are.
      Vive la différence.

      I don’t think there’s a simple answer, and it will be difficult to implement any measure of crowd “control” that won’t have at least minor negative effects on ordinary spectators and possibly cause impacts that will somewhat reduce spectator appeal.

      I’m not saying they shouldn’t try, but I wouldn’t envy being in their shoes faced with this challenging issue.

    3. Andrew

      Oh, and to elaborate, I think the Commissaires’ ruling is fair.

      Any Commissaire adjustment of the results will always be questioned, and open to criticism. There were various options for (non)adjustment that were open to them and a few that were in the “fair” ballpark. This one strikes a good balance between perceptions of advantage and disadvantage to various racers. They’ve made the best of a compounded bad situation (wind conditions and crowd conditions).

    4. Mick

      @Dan…your comment was hilarious…I love satire…

      From your comments, I assume you were riding just behind Froome (?) (or was it Mollema?)
      I appreciate getting first hand insight from someone who was there.

      Obviously Porte, Froome, & Mollema should be ticketed by the Gendarmerie for following too closely…(not to mention riding too fast for the conditions).

  5. Robert

    Even today, with everything that has happened, there were arses on the road in the TT- forcing riders on hard-to-maneuver tt bikes going incredibly fast to take different lines through corners and stepping out from curbs to take pictures and my favourite thing to hate- wave flags like a bullfighter at the riders. Why?

    I’m don’t condone violence but it seems responsible spectators need to give these wankers a big yank on the collar to get the f* out of the way.

  6. miles archer

    About the rules about running without a bike. How much of the bike did he need? one wheel? the frame? How far does he have to go to be DQed?

    I didn’t know the rules, do you think that he did? You’d think the pros would the rules, but then again I’ve seen bonehead plays in other sports where the athlete should have known the rules. If Froome gained an advantage or was even attempting to gain an advantage by running, I’d want to DQ him in a heartbeat.

    I think the judges made a valiant attempt to come up with a reasonable solution. I disagree with Dan – It’s the moto’s responsibility not to be in the way of the riders. Riding too fast/close? Are you kidding? This is a bike race.

    I wasn’t a Froome fan before this race. The last couple of stages are turning me into one.

  7. Jim

    UCI and ASO fail big time. None of this is unforeseeable and warnings signs of an incident of this nature have been becoming more obvious since the mid-2000s.

    The riders are twice victims for having to risk unnecessary injury and for their efforts to be cast aside by the neglecting actions of the organizers.

    In the end the jury did what the rules provide for and the outcome is the best of a terrible situation.

    I agree with inrng that Froome is totally able to run without his bike as he did not violate the intent of the rule.

    Froome has stamped his mark on this race indelibly so there will be no asterisks on this Tour.

    Once again we are left wanting the powers that run and execute bike races to look long and hard at their practices and change things for the better but we may all turn blue holding our breaths before anything meaningful happens.

  8. Ronen Z.

    If they don’t implement a rule you can’t play the game. Words I used to tell my son. Look at Golf . If you so much as touch the ball again without marking it , it’s a stroke. So the guy runs without the Bike then the next question my son would ask: What does the rule book say (Not the Comissioner)…

  9. Paul

    Actually, I thought Froome managed to make running uphill in carbon-soled cycling shoes look pretty good. (And I am not particularly a fan.)

  10. ms

    I downloaded the rules and can’t find where a rider must stay with his bike. Can anyone point me to that rule?

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