Tour de France 2020

Ventoux roundtable: Tour de Chaos!

How weird was stage 12 at the Tour? Should the other riders have waited while Froome ran? Did the race jury make the right call?

Our jaws are still stuck to the floor after watching Thursday’s stage up Mont Ventoux. The race motorcycles stopped due to the surging crowds, which caused breakaway riders Richie Porte, Bauke Mollema, and yes, Chris Froome, to hit the deck. The lasting image of today’s stage will be that of Froome jogging up road, having ditched his broken bicycle. Race organization eventually adjusted Froome’s finish time to be same as Mollema’s, so the race leader was not penalized.

Chaos! Crashes! Tour de France champions jogging along the road in bike shoes! Today had plenty of weirdness, so let’s roundtable!

What was your first reaction when you saw today’s incident?

Chris Case @chrisjustincase: I started laughing. I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. This is the “greatest” cycling race of them all? It was a complete farce. It was embarrassing. The analogy of a banana-hammock clad fan running onto the field at the Super Bowl and intercepting a touchdown pass from Tom Brady approaches the level of absurdity. And it turns out that Chris Froome has better form while running — in his pretty clippy shoes no less! — than he does on a bike.

Fred Dreier @freddreier: My jaw hit the floor. Yes, the sight of Chris Froome jogging along was hilarious, but when they showed the replay of the crash, I stopped giggling. My initial thought was, ‘We’ve reached the peak situation of cycling’s motorcycle madness.’

Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegs: Confusion. I’ve never seen this sort of thing unfold in the Tour, and let’s hope we’ll never see it again. But yeah, Chris is right that you have to laugh a little at Froome running in his cleats.

Andrew Hood @eurohoody: To be honest, dread. It was unclear what was happening, and when I saw Froome running up the road without his bike and looking back in distress, I momentarily feared the worst.

This was the weirdest Tour de France moment since _____.

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Chris: Yesterday when Froome and Sagan went on the attack together. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen the race favorite and the most badass rider work together to attack the whole peloton. And the tepid reaction from the other contenders was incomprehensible.

Fred: Lance getting yanked down by that fan’s musette bag in 2003. But you know what? This situation is weirder.

Spencer: Vinokourov winning stage 21 in 2005 on the Champs-Elysées. Although I’m not sure which is worse — a crazy Kazakhstani hopped up on every performance-enhancing drug known to mankind or badly behaved spectators ruining what should have been one of the Tour’s most exciting moments.

Andy: Joseba Beloki high-sided in 2003, and Lance Armstrong did his infamous short-cut across that hayfield on the road to Gap.

Should the other riders have waited for Froome after the incident?

Chris: No. I don’t believe such etiquette applies in this situation. It was complete chaos. Somewhere in these riders’ minds, amid the swirls of panic, there must have been a bit of understanding that the race officials would not allow this crash and its aftermath to effect the race’s outcome.

Fred: I’m split here. The big dogs famously waited for Lance after the 2003 musette bag incident, so I half expected them to do the same today. But the guys behind Froome didn’t know he had been taken out by a motorcycle, so I can’t blame them for thinking it was still game on.

Spencer: I don’t fault Mollema or anyone else here. There was so much confusion, that they did what any normal bike racer would do: Pedal hard. It was about one kilometer from the finish, so all bets are off. The TV announcers couldn’t figure out what was happening, I couldn’t figure out what was happening. No way Mollema knew what the situation was.

Andy: No waiting when the race is on. In that situation, the only thing you can do is get back on the bike as soon as you can. And push the pedals. Or, in this case, run.

Did the race commissars make the correct decision? Why or why not?

Chris: Yes. It was of no fault of the racers that this happened. Furthermore, I think Tour organizers ASO owe the racers an apology for not doing a better job of listening to their concerns about controlling fans. (And the fans…ugh.) They’ve been very vocal about the problems. We’ve seen it getting worse year after year. It finally results in this. Garbage.

Fred: No — I think they should have neutralized the race and stopped the clock as soon as the crash happened. Now, everybody’s time is influenced by them trying to get around the moto. Mollema had to peel himself off of the pavement. As soon as the incident happens, you have to suspend racing.

Spencer: It was right for them not to penalize Froome for the crash, which wasn’t his fault, but I’m a little confused as to why they gave Froome and Porte same time as Mollema. The most even-handed approach would be to simply say that this stage does not count toward GC. As it stands, riders like Quintana and Yates keep their advantage of not being held up by the crash, while Mollema was disadvantaged by it.

Andy: The only other option was to take the time differences at the point of the incident, but that was impossible to measure even with timing chips. Mollema’s ability to get to the line quickly saved Froome and Porte. There is no ‘right’ decision, but not everyone was happy.