VILLARS-LES-DOMBES, France (VN) — Tour de France leader Chris Froome can only look back and laugh at Thursday’s incident on Mont Ventoux that kicked off a series of social media spoofs of him running in the yellow jersey.
Fans pushing closer to see the race pass forced an official motorbike to stop and Richie Porte (BMC Racing), who was following close behind, to crash. Bauke Mollema (Trek – Segafredo) and Chris Froome (Sky) collided into them as well. Mollema restarted immediately and Porte moments later, but Froome began running since his bike broke and his team was far behind.
The 50-second run in the final kilometer spurred a series of parodies. Doctored photographs showed him running from lions in Africa, running with the bulls in Pamplona, and running in a marathon.
“Yeah, we’ve already had quite a few laughs about it in the team and of course, the guys are pretty quick to give me a hard time about that,” the Kenya-born Brit explained. “Yeah, at the time, it was a pretty stressful circumstance and chaotic, but a couple of days on, I look back and see the funny side to it now.”
Froome lacked time to speak about the incident because of the chaos Thursday evening mid-way up Mont Ventoux, where organizers moved the finish because of high winds, and because of the Nice truck attack later in the evening that killed 84 people.
Saturday morning in Montélimar, he stepped of the bus to take his bike and to sign autographs. In a relaxed moment, ahead of the 208.5-kilometer stage 14, he spoke about Mont Ventoux.
Team boss Dave Brailsford said at the time that now he might compete in the Paris Marathon. Team-mate Geraint Thomas added, “Froome is Kenyan, everyone on the team expected him to run when he didn’t have a bike.”
Mollema rode ahead and put 1:40 minutes on Froome that day. A group following with Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) passed Froome by 1:21. The race organizer ASO and the jury, however, decided to adjust the times to allow Froome and Porte the same time as Mollema.
Some were not happy with the adjustments. Mollema wrote on Twitter, “I wonder what would have happened if I would have been the only one to go down…”
“It was a very exceptional circumstance with no precedence to go by,” Froome added. “It was the race motorbike that basically stopped us from racing and the jury based their decision on that basis.”
Another moment nearly slipped unnoticed after the Mont Ventoux and Nice incidents. After a crash with Simon Gerrans (Orica-BikeExchange), who later abandoned with a broken collarbone, and Sky teammate Ian Stannard, Froome slowed the peloton to wait for the victims.
Alejandro Valverde, Movistar teammate of Tour favorite Nairo Quintana waved his arms in disgust and argued with Fabian Cancellara (Trek – Segafredo), who appeared to be in favor of the go-slow. In the time that it took Gerrans, Stannard and others to re-join, a previously dropped group with Louis Meintjes (Lampre-Merida) and Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) chased back.
“Ian Stannard was just behind Simon Gerrans going down the descent before Ventoux, he came around a corner and just a massive gust of wind took Gerrans off the road and Stannard followed suit. He went down hard,” Froome said.
“I spoke to guys around me, everyone said, ‘Yeah, we’ll neutralize it.’ I said, ‘OK, I’ll stop for a leak.’ They said, ‘Great.’ Everyone agreed and said, ‘Good idea, we don’t need to go crazy now, it’s not as if we are chasing the break for a stage win.’ Everyone around me agreed and we’ll let the race come back together, the guys who have crashed, let them come back.”
The organizer still needs to up its safety measures. Froome, however, can afford to laugh now because in Friday’s time trial he rode 51 seconds into his nearest rival. He now leads the overall by 1:47 on Mollema and 2:45 on Yates.