MONT VENTOUX, France (AFP) —Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme explained that “exceptional circumstances” were behind the decision to reinstate Chris Froome in the race leader’s yellow jersey. Fellow Briton Adam Yates was initially announced as the new race leader, before the race commission changed the results to Froome’s benefit due to a crash-marred stage 12 finish.
“The finish line was moved the day before due to the weather,” explained Prudhomme. “There was no other possible decision as the wind was blowing at 130kph in the early afternoon.
“I saw a caravan blown over at the Ventoux summit. But we weren’t able to move all the safety barriers.”
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Safety barriers were supposed to be installed in the final 2.6km of the stage to keep over-exuberant fans away from the riders in the crucial finale. Instead, only 600 meters of barriers had been put in place ahead of the rearranged finish at the Chalet Reynard.
“Other barriers installed close to Chalet Reynard fell over and we found ourselves with fewer barriers than usual,” added Prudhomme. “At the same time, there was a rush of fans because those camped on the [original] last few kilometers of Ventoux came back down.
“This flood [of people] produced an exceptional situation. It really was due to an excess of fans.”
Prudhomme said there would be an inquiry to find out why a motorbike was forced to stop on the route, causing the crash involving Australian Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema of the Netherlands, as well as Froome.
A UCI jury came to the decision to give Froome and Porte the same time as Mollema, the first to get up and finish from their group.
“I saw the jury and what I told them was that an exceptional decision could be explained, given the absolutely exceptional circumstances,” added Prudhomme.
Not everyone supported the decision and some fans jeered when Froome went up to the victory podium to receive the yellow jersey. “People often struggle to love the dominant champion,” added Prudhomme.
Froome wasn’t the only rider to benefit from the jury’s decision. Porte also gained time while Froome’s main rival, Nairo Quintana of Colombia, his Spanish Movistar teammate Alejandro Valverde and American Tejay Van Garderen also gained a few seconds as they were credited with the same time as Yates.
A group of overall contenders, including Quintana and Yates, was chasing the Froome group at the time of the crash, and they were held up in the bottleneck produced by the incident.
Prudhomme called on fans to be more careful: “You have to respect the security advice and the riders.”