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2016 Tour de France; Stage 12- you can’t make this shit up …

July 14, 2016

I really don’t know that there’s anything I can add to the very loud chorus of “WTF” that rang out across the Tour de France viewing world today. A shortened version of the iconic Ventoux stage, which was supposed to be shortened for “rider safety”, turned into the most dramatic day in recent Tour memory … more memorable than Lance’s run through a field, Lance’s musette mishap, LeMond’s ’89 :08 win, or either of Froome’s previous two “surprise” attacks this year. To say it was a batshit crazy day would be a negligent interpretation of the term.

Let’s cut to the chase here; a solid break with Thomas De Gendt (Lott-Soudal), Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data), and Daniel Navarro (Cofidis) was several minutes up the road fighting for the eventual stage win, while the GC field was beginning to trade blows for GC dominance. Movistar made a series of semi-placid attacks, first by Valverde, then Quintana, which were each neutralized by dominant SKY. Then the wheels began to come off, as Froome countered, and then Mollema re-countered, Porte clung on, Quintana faded …

… and then disaster struck.

It’s all very murky, but from the reports coming from various angles, it appears that a spectator was hit by or blocked one of the France 2/France 3 tv motos, forcing the moto to abruptly slam on the brakes while in front of Richie Porte, as he was charging up the climb with Froome and Mollema on his ass. Porte slammed into the moto, Froome flew into Porte, and Mollema on top of the two. A second, following moto then ran over Froome’s bike, breaking the seat stay. Mollema was first up and riding. Porte followed after. Froome, unable to ride, first ran with his bike, before dropping it on a moto and taking off running up the climb. He was eventually persuaded to take a Mavic neutral service bike, since his team car was too far behind, stuck in the chaos. The bike was too small, and had incompatible pedals … but was slightly faster than running. Eventually, very close to the finish, as the road widened due to the barriers holding the crowd at bay, the SKY team car got Froome a new bike … and he rolled across the line at a deficit and shaking his head in total disbelief … like millions watching the race.

Race Jury

In the ensuing carnage and chaos, the provisional GC leader was Adam Yates, but after lengthy deliberations, the race jury ultimately awarded Froome and Porte the same finishing time as Bauke Mollema, keeping Froome in yellow by :47 over Yates and :56 over Mollema.

Sadly, one of the biggest victims of the day was stage winner de Gendt, whose fantastic victory will forever be overshadowed by “the crash that took Froome down on Ventoux.” Hats off to de Gendt- he’s a classy rider, and he won the stage beautifully, his first ever at the Tour. He deserves a day in the spotlight, and having retaken the KOM jersey from Pinot, he will get to be pretty tomorrow in the maillot pois.

Opinions run the gamut on the outcome today, as well as who is to be blamed. “Shit happens” was a common refrain; Froome should have the time penalty because that’s the reality of the race. The entire finish should be neutralized, since it’s “unfair” to punish any rider for something outside of their control (such as Yates and the 1K banned incident earlier this Tour). The ASO is at fault for not having adequate crowd control. The gendarme failed for not exerting more security tactics. The tv motos are to blame. UCI is to blame for not forcing more adequate changes and security measures/ crowd control (yes). The fans are to blame. It’s a potpourri of finger pointing and blame throwing. And, frankly, rightfully so.

Here’s the horrible, ugly truth; no one party is to blame 100% for today. Each party involved, minus the riders in this case, shares in the fault. UCI has got to finally put rules in place that put rider safety first. Period. ASO needs to get their shit together and stop thinking of profits and power ahead of the riders and the race. They hold ALL the power here, and they use it solely to their advantage. SPEND THE FUCKING MONEY TO PUT IN MORE AND BETTER BARRIERS. There are too many tv/ camera motos. Period. We can still get great coverage with fewer, especially if it means fewer incidents like today, and fewer dead riders, or riders in vegetative comas. Fans need to respect the fucking race and racers. We all love the sport, we all want to have access to it … but with more idiots on the sides of the road looking for TV time, or just wound up tighter than a gerbil on crack, shit’s gonna happen and then we’ll ALL lose access when we’re no longer allowed anywhere near the actual race.

It’s a complicated issue. We’ve been collectively wringing our hands about this for far too long. Those of us who love the sport must be willing to sacrifice a little, or we risk losing all of it. The time has come for changes to be made … changes that should’ve been made years ago, before the ugliness of this year. Antoine Demoitié and Stig Broeckx have paid for the changes with their blood.

Tomorrow’s TT is going to be an interesting one. With Quintana on the ropes after today, running out of chances to take time from Froome, he needs a stellar effort to keep from losing even more time.  Froome, totally amped up from today’s chaos, will likely be overly motivated to drive some more nails into the coffin lids of his rivals. Guys like Porte, Tejay, Mollema, and Yates, will need to assert themselves BIG TIME, if they have any desire to reach or stay on the podium. Pinot has proven to be a handy TT rider this year, it could be a chance for him to salvage a little pride after augering like a lawn dart. Bardet can only hope for a miracle to salvage his hopes as well. Aru? Likely dead and buried after tomorrow. Fabz would love to go out with a win as well. It’s a technical course though, so it is perfect for huge time losses from crashes. If nothing else, it’ll be interesting.

Today, though beautiful for Thomas de Gendt, is another huge embarrassment for the sport of professional road cycling. The UCI and ASO need to be held accountable, and should be ashamed of themselves. Worse than doping, these incidents show the world the very worst of what cycling is … utterly mismanaged by the “powers that be.”

Tim

(It’d be great if you bought a kit.)

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