The shortened stage 12 on Mount Ventoux ended with a freak crash with one kilometer remaining that involved a TV motorbike and the leading trio of GC contenders Bauke Mollema, Richie Porte (BMC) and Chris Froome (Sky). While Mollema was able to remount and continue to the finish, both Porte and Froome had mechanical issues delaying them further. An eight-man group, the rest of the GC rivals, sailed by Froome – running without a bike at one point – and Porte; only Mollema managed to stay ahead, finishing in 10th place on the stage after the breakaway, but also losing valuable seconds to the crash.
"It happened so fast," explained Mollema. "There was one kilometer to go or less, and suddenly we were all on the ground. I don't know what happened; I quickly took my bike and didn't think about anything, but going as fast as possible to the finish.
There were just 800 meters to go or so; it was not the time to think about [neutralizing the race].
"I just went full gas to the line and then after we can see what will happen with the results. I did not see what happened to Froome. It was crazy there were a lot of people there. I didn't see, in one second I was on the ground. I had no problems in the crash, no injuries; I think I landed on top of Porte and my bike on Froome. I just thought: I have to get out of here as quickly as possible! I pulled my bike out of the mess, and my chain was off. Some spectators pushed me a bit to get started again on the uphill, and I put my chain back on."
After lengthy deliberations the race jury decided to award Froome and Porte the same finishing time as Mollema, keeping Froome in the yellow jersey. Nairo Quintana (Movistar), who finished a handful of seconds behind the rest of the GC contenders at the finish, was also granted the same time as the group.
Mollema: "Froome and Porte are lucky, I think, that I was on my bike so quickly and that I went full gas 'till the finish. They get my time now, or at least the time we got at that moment… Yeah, it’s special, because normally this isn’t the rule, but they made an exception, and now I’m wondering what they will do the next time that someone else crashes, or what they would have done if I was the only one who fell? I’m curious if they would have done the same?
"Later on, I also saw that Quintana also got seven seconds as a present, so even more special. I heard that it is like that because they took the time of the ‘Group Yates’ at 1km from the finish. At that point, he was in that group, so… Yeah, they had to brake too for that motorbike, and that’s probably why they said that Quintana lost contact with that group."
It was a tough decision for the race jury in a rare circumstance that invovled a TV motorbike hitting a spectator, coming to a sudden full-stop and causing the yellow jersey to fall in the last kilometer of a mountain summit finish.
Trek-Segafredo, unhappy with the jury's decision to award Quintana extra time, filed a complaint, but the verdict held.
The crash was an unfortunate ending to a stellar day for the team. Again, the team's classics specialists fought through the crosswinds ahead of Mount Ventoux, guiding Mollema safely into the bottom slope of the tough finishing climb.
Leaving the reins to Mollema, the Dutch climber continued the strong team showing, climbing with the GC contenders group until Froome attacked with Porte on his wheel. Displaying perhaps his best form ever, Mollema waited, then bridged up to Froome and Porte with around three kilometers to go.
"I felt good all day actually, and the guys were exceptional again. On the final climb the legs were really good, and when Froome went, I was a little bit in the back there. So I let the other guys pull a little. But it was not so fast, and I saw that Froome and Porte were riding away from us and I still had something in the legs, so I just closed the gap. I stayed in Froome's and Porte's wheels to recover a little bit and then after we worked well together. And then, of course, this happened in the last kilometer.
In the last kilometers, there should always be fences, especially on a climb like this with so many people.
Even with the precious seconds lost to the crash, Mollema moved into fourth place overall, 56 seconds behind Froome. With a lot of hard climbs to come, and a decisive time trial tomorrow, the Tour – already with more than its fair share of excitement – has only begun.
"It was a strange stage with wind and echelons and then the crash," finished Mollema. "I didn't think I could be that good; it's a good feeling knowing I can compete with the best climbers. That’s nice. And, it's a positive vibe just before the TT. Now it's important to move on and keep this focus because it’s still a long time to go."