Why the Tour de France Leader Got Off His Bike to Run Up Mount Ventoux

After crashing on Stage 12, Chris Froome tried running to the finish line before getting a replacement bike. Credit: AFP / Getty

The Tour de France is one of the most beautiful sporting events in the world. It's also one of the biggest shit shows. For every story of a hard-working anonymous racer surprising the favorites to claim the yellow leader's jersey for a few days, there's today's disaster.

In the last kilometer of Stage 12's grind up Mont Ventoux — a legendary climb at the race — the course became so congested with overly enthusiastic (read: drunk) fans, the motorbike leading a trio of overall contenders was stopped and the three racers plowed into the back. The small group included Bauke Mollema (7th last year), race leader Chris Froome, and his former teammate, Richie Porte.

Most racers crash during the Tour de France, and this bunch was lucky they went down while going uphill (they hit 60MPH and faster on descents). But while Mollema remounted his bike and was the first GC racer to finish the stage, Froome and Porte were marooned with broken bikes while stuck in an unmoving sea of literal fanatics blocking their team cars, or even neutral support, from providing replacements.

Froome entered the day with a slim, but respectable, 28-second lead over the U.K.'s Adam Yates. Yates was just far enough behind the motorbike crash to slip by Froome, and suddenly the defending Tour champion went from padding his lead with a few more seconds to possibly losing whole minutes. That ticking clock in Froome's head, amid the roar of flag-waving maniacs — like the one he punched out of his way on Stage 8 — triggered his desperate response to start running up the road.

Rules prohibit cyclists from running, but thus far Froome has not been sanctioned for his jog. And though Froome finished about 90 seconds behind Yates, presumably ceding his lead, the race officials awarded the defending Team Sky rider and Porte the same finish time as Mollema.

Racers were understandably critical of the race security after the stage. Upon learning he wouldn't take the race lead due to Froome's misfortunes, Yates told reporters that's not how he'd want to claim the yellow jersey anyway. It's the Tour de France, and shit happens.