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2016 Tour de France Stage 12: De Gendt victorious on chaotic Ventoux

Race jury lets Froome keep yellow after extraordinary incident

Thomas De Gendt (Belgium/Lotto-Soudal) took his greatest career victory on Thursday’s wild Tour de France stage to Ventoux. Afterwards, De Gendt weighed his Bastille Day Tour triumph equal to his win on the Stelvio in the 2012 Giro d’Italia. Race leader Chris Froome, who had opened a gap on Nairo Quintana in the final couple of kilometers, was delayed by a crash with a motorcycle and had to run up the slope. At first Froome’s compatriot Adam Yates of Orica-BikeExchange was in yellow on the provisional GC, but the judges changed the results.

Word started floating around the race Wednesday that organizers might shorten the stage because of extremely high winds at the top of Ventoux. In the evening, ASO made its decision to end the stage at the Chalet Reynard, 5.7-km below the peak.

This made the day 178-km and the Giant of Provence 10-km of 9.4% instead of 15.7-km of 8.8%.

Immediately from the gun in Montepellier the attacks began, with a 13-man move scuttling away and a sextet of chasers in pursuit. The peloton was obviously only interested in its inter-squabbling, because the escape had a whopping 18:15 with 96-km to go.

With 55-km to go Fabio Aru (Italy/Astana), already 1:35 in arrears, suffered a mechanical and had too many “sticky bottles” from his car to escape a time penalty. Polka dot jersey holder Thibaut Pinot (France/FDJ) was behind the wind-distanced peloton in a grupetto with green jersey Peter Sagan, Tom Dumoulin, Louis Meintjes and Warren Barguil.

Etixx-QuickStep started pounding away at the front of the peloton, closing the gap. The break hit the two consecutive small climbs that started 40-km from the foot of Ventoux holding 10:00. Among the fugitives were two riders 44-points behind Pinot in the KOM competition, De Gendt (Belgium/Lotto-Soudal) and Daniel Navarro (Spain/Cofidis).

De Gendt took the single point on offer at the top of Cat. 4 Côte de Gordes and two atop Cat. 3 Col des Trois Termes. Meanwhile, BMC took over from Etixx-QuickStep at the front of the favourites group and the gap was 8:30 with 42-km to go.

Simon Gerrans (Australia/Orica-BikeExchange) came to the front of the favourites group and crashed, bringing down a trio of Sky riders. Froome slowed for his men and the group sat up. This gave Pinot’s bunch a chance to return to the peloton.

The escape’s gap jumped again and the chances of Ventoux’s conqueror coming from the fugitives was excellent. Who would take it? Would it be a battle of the Dans, Navarro versus Tekelhaimenot (Eritrea)? Or would De Gendt’s polka dot campaign carry the day?

Andre Greipel threw in an ambitious attack 4-km before Ventoux, but as soon as the road kicked up he was out the back. Once more the peloton shed numbers, with Movistar bringing the break within 7:45 at the start of the climb.

After a couple of kilometres, only De Gendt, Navarro and Serge Pauwels (Belgium/Data Dimension) were left up front. Sky applied the lash to the yellow jersey group, but Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia/IAM) and Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar) jumped away. Nairo Quintana followed about a kilometre later, and the Movistar moves detached Dan Martin (Ireland/Etixx-QuickStep).

Both the yellow jersey group and the break shed riders, with Pauwels and De Gendt the final two within 4-km of the chalet. Froome attacked with 6-km to and only Quintana and Richie Porte (Australia/BMC), but just the Australian survived. Bauke Mollema (The Netherlands/Trek-Segafredo) lit out after the duo and Quintana couldn’t hold his wheel either.

Navarro came back to the front two, but would be dropped again just before the red kite. De Gendt dug deep against his countryman to take a famous and well-deserved win. Lotto-Soudal’s man also grabbed the polka-dot jersey.

Mollema dropped Froome and Porte. Second place Adam Yates had to go after Mollema. Then disaster struck.

Porte crashed into a motorbike, bottlenecking the race. Both Porte and Froome’s bikes were wrecked. Chris Froome started to run and took a neutral service bike that he couldn’t clip into. Around him was mayhem, as some riders got around the clog and some didn’t.

Incredibly, the provisional results gave the yellow jersey to Adam Yates and Quintana, who was on a bad day, third, but everybody waited for the organizers to sort things out. Porte said afterwards, “It can’t stand.”

Twenty minutes after the stage the yellow jersey had not been presented as ASO and UCI decided what to do.

Word came a half hour later that Froome would keep the jersey, extending his lead over Yates and Quintana by 19-seconds.

The riders now have Friday’s rolling 37.5-km time trial to think about.

2016 Tour de France Stage 12
1) Thomas De Gendt (Belgium/Lotto-Soudal) 4:31:51
2) Serge Pauwels (Belgium/Data Dimension) +0:02
3) Daniel Navarro (Spain/Cofidis) +0:14
68) Antoine Duchesne (Canada/Direct Energie) +21:26

2016 Tour de France GC

1) Christ Froome (Great Britain/Sky) 57:11:43
2) Adam Yates (Great Britain/Orica-BikeExchange) +0:47
3) Nairo Quintana (Colombia/Movistar) +0:54
113) Antoine Duchesne (Canada/Direct Energie) +1:54:06