Froome crashes in Tour, finishes stage with teammate’s bike
SAINT-GERVAIS-LES-BAINS, France — Rain and crashes played havoc at the Tour de France on Friday as Chris Froome hit the ground and Romain Bardet posted the first French victory at this year’s race.
Froome quickly borrowed a teammate’s bike and kept his now torn yellow jersey after crossing the finish line 36 seconds behind Bardet, who climbed to second place overall.
Froome holds a lead of 4 minutes, 11 seconds over Bardet, with two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana of Colombia moving up to third, 4:27 back.
Bardet attacked on a descent moments before Froome slipped on road paint as he crossed a white line and hit the ground just 13.5 kilometers (8 miles) from the finish. The two-time champion was able to continue racing after swapping bikes with Geraint Thomas.
“I think that I hit one of the white lines on the road and lost my front wheel,” Froome said at the finish, his right knee heavily bandaged. “I’m okay, I’m lucky that nothing is seriously injured. A crash like that could have gone either way and I’m grateful that nothing is injured. You never have a quiet day at the Tour.”
Froome was descending at a relatively cautious speed of almost 45 kph (28 mph) when he fell. With his jersey torn, blood dripping down his right leg, cuts and bruises on his back and blood on his right elbow, Froome understandably looked uncomfortable on Thomas’ bike.
Despite the circumstances, Froome caught up with the group of favorites in the brutal final climb to Le Bettex with the help of teammate Wouter Poels.
Froome crossed the line grimacing in pain, then put his arm around Poels to thank him for the support.
“I just lost a bit of skin but today is a day when I’m grateful for that four minute-advantage to fall back on a bit,” Froome said. “It was great for me to have teammates all the way up until the finish there, with Wout in particular and all the guys. It was a great team effort and it feels great to be one day closer to Paris.”
The 146-kilometer (91-mile) ride featured four ascents in the Alps and was marred by several crashes on roads made slippery by rain. Second-placed Bauke Mollema also crashed at a roundabout and got dropped, as his hopes of finishing on the podium in Paris disappeared.
“Right now I’m on a cloud,” Bardet said after posting his second Tour stage win. “I rode with my instinct. I’m second overall, I won the stage, it’s is beautiful.”
Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez finished the stage in second place, in the same time as Alejandro Valverde, 23 seconds back.
In the overall, Adam Yates dropped from third to fourth, nine seconds behind Quintana, and Mollema fell all the way to 10th.
The day had started quietly for Froome, who joked with Peter Sagan at the front of the pack after a group of 20 riders immediately jumped away from the peloton. The best-placed rider in the breakaway was Frenchman Pierre Rolland, who lagged 22:51 minutes behind Froome overall at the start, and Team Sky did not chase.
But the ideal scenario changed dramatically when the weather turned wet. As rain started to fall, Michael Matthews was among the first escapees to be caught a few kilometers from the summit of the punishing Montee de Bisane, a 12-kilometer climb with an average gradient of eight percent.
Rolland then moved away from his breakaway companions in the ski resort of Les Saisies, with former world champion Rui Costa following right on his wheel. But the Frenchman slid off the road on the descent and heavily hit the tarmac. With his jersey lacerated and covered with dirt, Rolland remounted his bike after consulting with the race doctor and finished the stage.
Froome needs to negotiate one more tricky mountain stage on Saturday before the ceremonial ride to Paris.
“Tomorrow is going to be hard, it’s going to be really hard and I’m sure that I’m going to be a bit stiff after today,” Froome said. “Hopefully I can rely on my teammates and it’s just one last push.”
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