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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Friday, July 15, 2016

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Tour de France stage 12 news

This was a complicated day of racing. Near the end a combination of too many race fans, a TV moto and a break with race leader Chris Froome brought down Froome and his two breakaway companions, Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema.

Times were adjusted after the stage so that the crash had no effect upon the standings. Chris Froome remained the GC leader. Here's the Tour's explanation of the incident: In the yellow jersey group, Froome accelerated with 3.5km to go. Only Richie Porte managed to follow him. Nairo Quintana didn't but Bauke Mollema made it across. Porte, Mollema and Froome hit a motorbike. Mollema managed to go back on his bike quickly but Porte and Froome couldn't. Froome started running to the finish line, got a spare bike and a second spare bike to complete the course with a deficit of one and half minutes over his main rivals. Eventually the classification was reviewed so nobody was penalized by the incident.

First, this unfortunate note about Simon Gerrans from Orica-BikeExchange:

2016 Tour Down Under champion Simon Gerrans was involved in a high-speed crash with 30 kilometres to go and unfortunately has been forced to withdraw from the Tour de France after sustaining a broken collarbone.

Here's Team Sky's stage 12 report:

Chris Froome extended his race lead at the Tour de France despite stage 12 descending into chaos on Mont Ventoux. The Team Sky leader had attacked in a show of strength and was riding at the head of the general classification group when the fan-lined climb became too congested and, with no roadside barriers, forced a TV motorbike to come to a halt.

Richie Porte (BMC Racing), Froome and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) had nowhere to go and ploughed into the back of the stationary motorbike and one another. With Froome's bike damaged in the incident, the yellow jersey was forced to run up the hors-categorie climb as he awaited support in the form of a replacement bike.

Despite the initial time loss in the incident seeing Froome slip to a provisional sixth place, the race organisers reviewed the situation and eventually credited Froome with the same time as Mollema at the finish, allowing the Brit to not only retain the yellow jersey, but extend his advantage to 47 seconds.

Eventually Froome was able to pull on yellow for a fifth day running, with his Team Sky teammates again putting in a towering performance across the 178-kilometre stage.

"Mount Ventoux always throws up something different and today was no exception," said Froome after the stage. "Obviously it's really unfortunate what happened in the last couple of kilometres, but ultimately I think common sense has prevailed and the commissaires have come to the right decision, so I'd like to thank them for that.

"You always have to expect the unexpected at the Tour and I've said all along that this would be my biggest challenge yet. Now I'm just looking forward to tomorrow's time trial"

After Etixx - Quick-Step had pushed hard to split the bunch in the crosswinds on the approach to the climb, Team Sky were forced to overcome a multi-rider pile-up on the descent off the Col des Trois Termes.

Simon Gerrans (Orica-BikeExchange) was leading the group down and crashed, leaving Ian Stannard with nowhere to go. The Brit was able to remount and finish the stage, with the crash also holding up Luke Rowe and Wout Poels. Order was eventually restored with Vasil Kiryienka pacing the lower slopes of Ventoux, which had been shortened by 6km due to winds whipping up in excess of 100 km/h towards the summit.

Chirs Froome

Chris Froome right after finishing stage 12

While up ahead Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) won the stage, Mikel Landa took over before Movistar launched their moves with Alejandro Valverde followed by Nairo Quintana. Poels and Sergio Henao combined superbly to shut down the danger, before Froome launched his own stinging move.

With Quintana quickly put into difficultly, Froome, Porte and Mollema had opened out a gap before the collision. In the incredible scenes that followed, Froome ran up the climb before finally being reached by neutral service - with team cars struggling to make their way through the over-crowded climb. Eventually Froome was able to get his own replacement bike, blasting up the final 400 metres to eventually learn he would retain yellow.

Here's the report from stage winner Thomas de Gendt's Lotto-Soudal team:

Thomas Gendt won the stage to the Mont Ventoux today, the first victory for Lotto Soudal at this year’s Tour de France!

Yesterday the Tour organisation decided to shorten the stage because of the strong wind at the top of the Mont Ventoux. The new finish line was drawn six kilometres before the top, at Chalet Reynard. The question was if the GC riders would battle for the stage win or if a breakaway rider would triumph. Pretty soon a front group of fourteen was created, including Lotto Soudal riders Thomas De Gendt and André Greipel. One of their companions got dropped because of a puncture and so thirteen riders remained in front. A group of five chasers never managed to join them.

The time gap between the front group and the peloton rose up to 18’45”. With 85 kilometres to go it looked rather reassuring for the break, but then some teams decided they wanted some action and tried to create echelons. The first peloton kept coming closer to the leaders and with 33 kilometres to go the time gap was 7’48”. After a crash in the peloton the pace slowed down so the riders involved could come back, that way the gap got bigger again. The winner was one of the riders of the breakaway!

Just before the foot of the Mont Ventoux André Greipel accelerated. He stayed ahead of the others for a short while. The German champion had already done a lot of work during the day for his teammate Thomas De Gendt. Once the climb really started Thomas set the pace, one by one the others got dropped. De Gendt turned out to be one of the strongest riders, together with Dani Navarro and Serge Pauwels. They entered the final kilometre together. The two Belgians left Navarro behind with a few hundred metres to go, then De Gendt beat his fellow countryman at the finish. It is his second stage win in a Grand Tour. In 2012 he won the mountain stage to the Stelvio at the Giro d’Italia.

Thomas de Gendt

De Gendt has the stage nailed as he looks back at Serge Pauwels

Thomas was also awarded the combativity prize today and he has the polka dot jersey around his shoulders again. De Gendt, who conquered the maximum points at the finish and on two smaller climbs during the stage, now has nine points more than Thibaut Pinot.

Thomas De Gendt: “It was a good front group, the cooperation ran smoothly. I had a strong teammate by my side. During the season I work a lot for André, but today he did so much for me. It was an honour to have a great cyclist like him to support me. On the Ventoux I remained in front with only two others quite soon. I had decided to keep my own pace. I got distanced, but I didn’t panic and stayed in my rhythm. I managed to get back in front. At the end it was difficult to know how far it was till the finish because of the many spectators along the side of the road.  I was surprised when we entered the last kilometre. Serge and I feared that Navarro would still get back, but he didn’t.”

“I am really happy with this victory. It’s difficult to choose between this win and the one on the Stelvio. The Tour is a bigger race, but that Giro stage was the first big victory in my career and it also got me third on GC. Up till now we hadn’t won yet with the team at this Tour. Maybe another stage win will follow now, there are still a few chances for André. At the finish the KOM points were doubled and I own the polka dot jersey again. I still think it is very difficult for someone other than a GC rider to take the jersey home. I only have a small lead. I am keen on joining more breakaways and then we’ll see where it ends.”

“Tonight we will definitely have a drink, but modestly, because we are all thinking of Stig Broeckx. We all were a bracelet with the text ‘Fight for Stig’ and we keep on fighting, with him and his family. We talk about Stig a lot and he’s always on our minds. I dedicate this victory to him.”

Rafal Valls had to abandon the Tour de Pologne today. He has a fracture in his pubic bone due to a crash.

Here's BMC's update:

14 July, 2016, Chalet Reynard (FRA): Stage 12 of the Tour de France ended in chaos when Richie Porte was involved in a crash caused by a stationery motorbike and uncontrolled crowds in the final kilometer of the stage.

Porte, Chris Froome (Team SKY), and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) had attacked from the General Classification group and held a 23-second lead when the incident took place.

The crash caused Porte to require a wheel change which saw him finish more 45 seconds back on his General Classification rivals. Tejay van Garderen was also caught up behind the crash when the group was forced to slow behind the stationery motorbike.

richie porte

Richie Porte finishes the stage

Following the stage finish, the UCI jury awarded Porte and Froome the same time as Mollema (5'05" down on stage winner Thomas De Gendt).

The UCI's decision sees Froome retain the Yellow Jersey and van Garderen and Porte move up to 7th and 11th place respectively. Porte will be examined for any injuries by BMC Racing Team's medical team and further updates on his condition will be provided when possible.

Post time-adjustment quotes:

Richie Porte: "It's the decision they had to take. It's already out of control. I agree that you come to the race, you have a good time but you don't need to be running beside the riders, you don't need to hitting riders, pushing riders. Things have got to change and I can't believe there weren't barriers there. At the end of the day I've trained so hard for this and yeah okay now I get the same time as Mollema, but I also crashed and now I'm sore. Tomorrow's a crucial stage as well and it remains to be seen how I'll pull up. It's bitterly disappointing but at the end of the day it's the right decision by the UCI jury. We love the fans and 99 percent of them are brilliant but why do some of them need to take their selfies and run along beside us? There's passion and there's stupidity and it's not such a fine line between them."

Jim Ochowicz, General Manager: "It's a fair decision for all parties. I don't know how else you could resolve it other than go back to the one kilometer mark and take the time from the riders at that point. But there could have been more time gaps one way or another had they gone to the finish line without the crash. But under the circumstances it's fair for everybody."

Quotes from the Finish Line

Richie Porte: "The crowd was all over the road and the motorbike just stopped right in front of us and we had no where to go but straight over the top of the motorbike. It was just a mess. Froome was on my wheel and was straight into me. I don't know what they're going to do but they need to do something about it. It's not fair. One minute we're 23 seconds in front and the next thing for something so silly, everyone's back on us. That can't stand, it can't happen like that. Surely the jury has to look at it and use some sort of discretion. If you can't control the crowds what can you control?"

"It's not really the motorbikes, it's the crowds in your face the whole time, pushing riders. At the top there it was just crazy."

Tejay van Garderen: "We were coming around a corner and all of a sudden people were just stopped. I was kind of on the back of the group at that moment so I really got tangled up and lost some time. I can't complain too much, poor Richie [Porte] and [Chris] Froome, they got the worst of it. Me and Quintana also really didn't fare well from that so I don't know, hopefully the jury uses some sort of discretion and is able to take the time with the one kilometer to go or something."

"I didn't see much but it was definitely mayhem out there. The crowds get a little out of control and with so many motorbikes, the road is only so big. Normally when you see a big GC guy in trouble the gentlemen thing to do would be to stop and wait and regroup. You saw that a lot in the past but these days people just seem to want to take advantage of it."

And Tinkoff sent me this news:

At the end of the 12th stage of the Tour de France, one that was always set to be decided by the brutal slopes of Mont Ventoux, a chaotic climb overshadowed the final result. A breakaway took the stage honours but a crash for the first GC riders in the final kilometres stole the headlines. After crossing the line, Roman Kreuziger slipped a few places down the GC to 14th after finishing in 26th place on the day.

After yesterday’s stunning stage win with Peter Sagan, the team’s focus was back to supporting Roman Kreuziger ahead of the day’s final climb up Ventoux. Due to the high winds in the region, the final ascent was reduced by six kilometres, however, the nine still to be tackled help an average gradient of over nine percent gradient, plenty to shake the race up.

"The plan was clear for today, just to look after Roman and make sure he was in good shape going into the Ventoux," explained Sport Director Steven De Jongh after the stage. "The guys did a good job and then it was up to Roman on the climb. When the big attacks came he lost contact but set a good pace. It was quite a hectic finish and he was just pushing to lose as little time as possible ahead of tomorrow's time trial."

Fourteen riders eventually established themselves at the front of the race and set about building a huge advantage of over 18 minutes, while behind the peloton remained nervous with the constant threat of crosswinds later in the stage. Keeping Roman out of trouble, the team grouped together near the front of the peloton and when the pace was eventually raised, they were ready and Roman made the front group of favourites.

With each kilometre passed the break's chances of survival looked better and better, and as the race hit the slopes of the Ventoux it was clear they would take the stage. Both the breakaway and peloton, several minutes back, started to spinter with three riders pulling clear to fight out the stage win amongst themselves. Behind, the expected attacks came from the overall favourites and gradually Roman started to lose contact, eventually settling into his own rhythm for the final kilometres behind the unfolding chaos ahead. Enclosing crowds and stopping motorbikes caused a pile-up, which eventually saw the yellow jersey running up the road, while behind Roman was unaffected by the crash itself and fought on to limit his loses right to the line. Green jersey Peter Sagan crossed the line safely in the grupetto to conserve his jersey into tomorrow's stage.

Tomorrow's stage presents the first time trial of the race, a 37.5km individual effort from Bourg-Saint-Andeol to Le Caverne de Pont. It will be the first outing for Maciej Bodnar in his new Polish national champion's skinsuit, while Roman will be looking to claw back time over some of those who finished ahead of him today.

LottoNL-Jumbo was in the fight as well. Here's their report:

Team LottoNL Jumbo finished with two men in the top 10 of the Tour de France’s stage 12 up Mont Ventoux today. Bert-Jan Lindeman placed sixth and Sep Vanmarcke eighth behind winner Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal). De Gendt managed to shake off his fellow escapees and finished two seconds ahead of Serge Pauwels (Dimension Data).

Due to high 100kph winds, the organiser ended the stage six kilometres down from Mont Ventoux’s famous peak at Chalet Reynard.

Early in the stage, 13 men managed to break away from the peloton. Lindeman and Vanmarcke made the move. "We were motivated to get in the break,” Sports Director Merijn Zeeman said. “We pointed out couple of riders to go along. And with such a long flat start, Vanmarcke and Lindeman were ideal."

Despite the gap quickly shooting to more than a quarter of an hour, it was not certain that the leaders were going to battle for a stage win. “We were not sure because there was a lot of wind. There was a lot of speed in the peloton,” Zeeman added. “With two men in the top 10, though, we should be happy today. That’s a good result for us."

Lindeman managed to get up with Pauwels, De Gendt and Navarro. "I was hoping I could follow, and that after the beginning, they’d slow down. The pace was just a bit too high, though. After a few attacks, I dropped away, unfortunately,” said Lindeman. "It's a missed opportunity, but my legs were no better today. On the flat, I had a good feeling, but on the climb, it became very tough. “It was nice to ride clear on Mont Ventoux, but it was still disappointing because it was a chance to show something beautiful."

"This was very nice because I never thought I could be eighth on Mont Ventoux,” Vanmarcke said. “It will not happen again soon.

He kept pushing when dropped. "I went full-speed to ensure that I could finish in front of the GC guys and finish in the top 10. “The intention today was mainly to get Lindeman in the escape, but I jumped in also. We still had the plan to force some echelons, but the peloton came closer, so it was better that we stayed together with more men."

LottoNL-Jumbo's Tour of Poland news:

Moreno Hofland sprinted to second place in the third stage of the Tour de Pologne today. Team LottoNL-Jumbo’s sprinter lost only to Niccolo Bonefazio (Trek - Segafredo), but grabbed the lead in the points classification.

The final sprint in the third stage of the Tour de Pologne was another chaotic one. “With 1.5 kilometre to go, there was a turn of 180 degrees,” Moreno Hofland said. “Dennis van Winden and Tom Leezer brought me in position at that point. I knew that I wasn’t going to get space on the sides of the road. I was in the middle, stayed calm and when I saw a gap, I went for it. I had enough power to come from far back, but I started the sprint from a little bit too far behind, eventually. I’m fed up with that.”

Sports Director Addy Engels shared the feeling that more should have been possible. “At that sharp turn, he was still in a good position, but Moreno lost some positions afterwards,” Engels said. “He delivered the fastest sprint, but didn’t win. That bothers me. It’s good to see how fast he is, on the other hand. He’s coming closer.”

Hofland might get another chance on Friday in a stage that is quite comparable with the third one. “It’s quite hilly, but the final part of the race is flat,” Engels concluded. “If the climbers want it, they might be able to drop the sprinters, but it might end up in another bunch kick as well.”

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