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2016 Tour de France

STAGE 12: Montpellier to Mont Ventoux

Preview — 2016 Tour de France, stage 12

After the predicted sprint in Montpellier, the peloton immediately faces the “Giant of Provence,” the infamous Mont Ventoux. Given its isolated location, it’s the only major climb on the menu, and plenty of riders will want to get into the breakaway, especially as this is Bastille Day. One thing is for sure: This stage will do some damage. Even if a favorite doesn’t wrap up the Tour here, a number of riders could end up losing all hope of victory — someone is bound to stumble due to the extreme difficulty of the climb.

Chris Froome was forced to run after a motorcycle crashed into the back of his bike in a hectic finish on Mont Ventoux. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com
Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

In a bizarre turn of events on Mont Ventoux, Chris Froome was left running along the road after a crash with a TV motorcycle left him sans bike, dropped by key Tour de France rivals. Amid throngs of fans in the closing kilometers, Porte ran into the moto from behind, causing Sky’s yellow jersey to stop short. When another motorcycle crashed into Froome from behind, his bike was ruined. Fortunately for the Sky leader, the race jury, after extensive deliberation, decided not to take GC time off of the finish.

“Ventoux is full of surprises,” said Froome after the GC results were resolved. “About 1.2km to go, the motorbike slammed on its brakes — the road was blocked in front — the three of us just plowed into the motorbike and another motorbike ran into me, breaking my frame. I just started running. I knew the car was stuck behind.”

The chaos in the race for yellow overshadowed the day’s big winner, Thomas de Gendt, who finally earned a Tour de France stage win. The Lotto – Soudal rider out-sprinted fellow Belgian Serge Pauwels of Dimension Data.

Stage 12, top 10

  • 1. Thomas DE GENDT, LOTTO SOUDAL, in 4:31:51
  • 2. Serge PAUWELS, DIMENSION DATA, at :02
  • 4. Stef CLEMENT, IAM CYCLING, at :40
  • 5. Sylvain CHAVANEL, DIRECT ENERGIE, at :40
  • 6. Bertjan LINDEMAN, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at 2:52
  • 8. Sep VANMARCKE, TEAM LOTTO NL – JUMBO, at 3:26
  • 9. Chris Anker SÖRENSEN, FORTUNEO – VITAL CONCEPT, at 4:23
  • 10. Bauke MOLLEMA, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at 5:05

Top-10 overall

  • 1. Christopher FROOME, TEAM SKY, in 57:11:33
  • 2. Adam YATES, OBE, at :47
  • 3. Nairo Alexander QUINTANA ROJAS, MOVISTAR TEAM, at :54
  • 4. Bauke MOLLEMA, TREK – SEGAFREDO, at :56
  • 5. Romain BARDET, AG2R LA MONDIALE, at 1:15
  • 6. Alejandro VALVERDE BELMONTE, MOVISTAR TEAM, at 1:32
  • 7. Tejay VAN GARDEREN, BMC RACING TEAM, at 1:32
  • 8. Fabio ARU, ASTANA PRO TEAM, at 1:54
  • 9. Daniel MARTIN, ETIXX – QUICK STEP, at 1:56
  • 10. Joaquin RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, TEAM KATUSHA, at 2:11

The breakaway

Greipel attacked the early breakaway of 13 riders with about 14km to go, but he was brought back a few kilometers later before the forested section of Ventoux’s base. With 10km to climb, the peloton was about 7:43 behind the leaders.

The break began to pull apart as it reached the early 10 percent grades of the climb. Three men rode clear at the front of the race: Lotto – Soudal’s Thomas de Gendt, Dimenson Data’s Serge Pauwels, and Daniel Navarro of Cofidis.

Soon, de Gendt was dropped. Pauwels ramped up the pace, but Navarro stayed on the wheel. However, about one kilometer later, the Lotto – Soudal Belgian dragged himself back up to the front duo.

Ahead, de Gendt attacked with a little over 3km remaining. Pauwels kept his Belgian compatriot in sight, but Navarro was dropped. With two kilometers left, Pauwels reconnected with de Gendt and then launched a counterattack of his own.

Just before the final kilometer, Navarro chased back to the lead duo, who had been trading attacks, slowing their pace on the climb.

De Gendt led out the sprint, Navarro was dropped, and Pauwels couldn’t respond in the final 100 meters.

“I had the feeling that I have to go in the break today,” de Gendt said. “My feeling said that I had to go, and my feeling was right today. “

The fight for yellow

The first big move came from Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde, who was countering a move by IAM Cycling’s Jarlinson Pantano. His acceleration set up Quintana for an attack. Sky fired up the chase with Sergio Henao and brought back the Movistar rider. Quintana tested Froome again with another small attack.

But the Colombian was flagging, and Froome launched his own attack. Porte followed with Quintana in tow. Froome put his head down and drove the pace, soon distancing the Movistar leader.

Quintana drifted back to the main chase, and then Mollema attacked and bridged up to Froome and Porte.

Disaster struck in the final few kilometers. A television motorcycle appeared to stop short as fans swarmed the roadway. Porte crashed into the back of the camera moto, flipping over his bars, causing a chain reaction with Mollema and Froome also going down.

[gifs url=”https://gifs.com/embed/chris-froome-crashes-on-ventoux-and-runs-73×991″ file=”https://j.gifs.com/73×991.gif”]

“This is a disaster. They have to do something,” said Porte. “It’s not fair, and it can’t continue like this. If you cannot control the public, what can you control? They’re in your face all the time, pushing riders. It’s completely crazy.”

Froome then tossed his yellow bike aside and began running up the roadway as Mollema and Porte rode away.

After a moment of bizarre confusion, a Mavic neutral support car caught up with Froome to provide a spare bike. But the new yellow steed was not the correct size, and it didn’t even have pedals to match Froome’s cleats. As the race leader entered the barriers of the final kilometer, he set the neutral bike aside and finally got a Pinarello from his team car, which he rode to the finish, shaking his head in disbelief.

“We’ve been animated the race, and today we were on the offensive, creating splits,” said Sky sport director Nicolas Portal. “And now this happens. There was a wall of people, and we just couldn’t get through. The Sky car was blocked by the commissaires car, and we couldn’t get through.”

Once the jury had announced clemency for Froome after the finish, Team Sky proved to have a sense of humor, despite its outward appearances of seriousness.

Froome will have a chance for revenge in Friday’s 37.5km time trial that features rolling hills from Bourg-Saint-Andeol to La Caverne du Pont-D’Arc.