MONT VENTOUX, France – On Bastille Day, fans created havoc at the Tour de France like never before.
Storming the road on France’s national day, the crowd prompted a crash involving race leader Chris Froome and it wasn’t until hours after the wacky 12th stage concluded that organizers decided the British rider could keep the yellow jersey.
“Mont Ventoux always throws up something different and today was no exception,” Froome said. “You always have to expect the unexpected at the Tour.”
In a complete embarrassment for cycling’s biggest race, Richie Porte crashed headfirst into a motorbike carrying a TV camera, and Froome, who was right behind his former teammate, also hit the pavement in the final kilometre on the wind-shortened climb up legendary Mont Ventoux.
“The crowd was just all on the road, and a motorbike stopped right in front of us and we had nowhere to go,” Porte said. “The next minute, I went straight over the top of the motorbike. It was just a mess.”
After the crash, Froome threw his mangled bike aside and began running up the road. He eventually was given a small yellow race assistance bike before his team car was finally able to provide him with a suitable substitute.
All of Froome’s main rivals crossed ahead of him, and Froome shook his head in disbelief when he finally reached the finish.
“It’s really unfortunate what happened in the last couple of kilometres,” Froome said. “But ultimately common sense has prevailed and the commissaires have come to the right decision, so I would like to thank them for that.”
As Froome ran through the crowds, he attempted to communicate with his team via radio but the crowds prevented the Team Sky car from reaching him.
“It was a nightmare,” Sky sports director Nicolas Portal said. “It took up to two minutes for him to get a spare bike but the pedals did not suit him. … I can’t understand how so many people were allowed there. It was mayhem.”
Before the crash, Froome dropped most of his rivals apart from Porte and Bauke Mollema.
The race jury eventually decided to give Froome and Porte the same stage time as Mollema.
Still, Froome was booed and whistled at when he put the yellow jersey back on during the podium ceremony.
Froome, who is seeking his third Tour title in four years, increased his overall lead to 47 seconds ahead of fellow British rider Adam Yates.
The race’s first time trial comes on Friday with a hilly 37.5-kilometre leg from Bourg-Saint-Andeol to La Caverne du Pont-D’Arc, where Froome will be looking to add to his lead in calmer circumstances.