By Julien Pretot
MONT VENTOUX, France (Reuters) – Defending champion Chris Froome retained the overall leader’s yellow jersey on the Tour de France despite being left without a bike following an incident involving a motorbike in a farcical finale to the 12th stage on Thursday.
The Briton’s bike was broken in a pile-up close to the finish and the Team Sky rider began running up the slopes of the Mont Ventoux before grabbing a service bike which did not fit. Froome was then given a spare Team Sky bike on which he completed the 178-km stage, losing over a minute to his main rivals, only for the race jury to rule that he would be credited with the same time as the two riders he was with when the incident occurred.
“Chris Froome and Richie Porte have been given the same time as Bauke Mollema due to the incident in the finale. Froome retains the yellow jersey,” organizers said in a statement.
BMC rider Porte, who was leading Froome and Dutchman Mollema (Trek Segafredo), crashed into a TV motorbike that was held up by the crowd on the road.
Mollema and Froome also tumbled and the Briton’s bike was broken in the incident.
The overall lead was first handed to Briton Adam Yates (Orica-Bike Exchange) before the standings were updated and Froome was handed the yellow jersey on the podium.
“I’m very happy with the commissaires’ decision, I think it was the right thing to do, thanks to the jury and thanks to the organizers,” Froome told reporters.
Yates added: “I’m happy with the decision, I would not want to take the jersey like that. I wanted to take it with my legs.”
Yates now trails Froome by 47 seconds in second place.
“It’s a fair decision,” said Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme said it was “an outstanding decision” and explained there were more spectators concentrated near the finish because the stage had been shortened due to violent winds at top of the Ventoux.
In the final kilometers, the road is usually protected by barriers, but Prudhomme said organizers could not set them up because of the strong winds blowing.
The cycling season has been marred by incidents involving motorbikes. Belgian Antoine Demoitie died after being run over by a race motorbike during the Gent-Wevelgem classic in March. Froome’s main rival Nairo Quintana (Movistar) of Colombia is now third, 54 seconds behind, with fourth-placed Mollema 56 seconds off the pace.
Froome had been the strongest of the top favorites in the shortened stage, dropping main rival Quintana with about 3km left with only Porte and Mollema able to follow his pace.
“The motorbike could not progress and there was a pile-up in which Chris’s bike was broken,” said Team Sky sports director Nicolas Portal.
“It was a nightmare.”
Portal added he was also held up behind the race stewards and could not drive up to his rider so that his mechanic could hand him a spare bike.
“It’s an incident created by the event. There are more and more people lining up the road. It’s got nothing to do with sport,” the Frenchman said.
“It was crazy. On a 200-metre portion there were hundreds of spectators blocking the road.”
Froome will have the opportunity to extend his lead in Friday’s 13th stage, a 37.5-km individual time trial from Bourg Saint Andeol and La Caverne du Pont d’Arc.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)