Something pretty unprecedented happened today! Yeah, you don't often see the yellow jersey taken down by a motorbike, and running up Mont Ventoux. However, the UCI has spoken. Chris Froome himself was the first to break the news, tweeting:
The general classification is now left like this:
That's quite a turnaround from the provisional classification, which saw Froome in sixth, fifty-three seconds down. He and Richie Porte were given Bauke Mollema's time, as though the leading trio had ridden together to the finish
There's a debate raging about who was in the right here. Would the jury have changed anything if it were another rider in question, one further down, or less famous? Well, what do the rules say?
Like everything published by the UCI, it's very vague. This is the most relevant section:
Race incidents: In case of an accident or incident that could impinge upon the normal conduct of a race in general or a particular stage thereof, race director may, after obtaining the agreement of the commissaires' panel and having informed the timekeepers, at any moment, decide:
- to modify the course,
- to temporarily neutralise the race or stage, - to declare a stage null and void, - to cancel part of a stage as well as the results of any possible intermediate classifications and to restart the stage near the place of the incident,
- to let the results stand or
- to restart the race or stage, taking account of the gaps recorded at the moment of the incident.
If necessary, the commissaires' panel may consult the technical delegate appointed to UCI WorldTour events by the UCI to reach a decision.
So that's all very clear. Basically, the commissaires were at liberty to do whatever they wished, there was no rule preventing them from either telling Froome where to go, or doing what they did. There's precious little past experience to draw on, unless you consider Greg Van Avermaet at San Sebastian. However, that's a very different situation, naturally — They aren't giving Froome the stage win.
And what precedent does this set? What crashes fit through this net of neutralisation, and which do not? Consider Lance Armstrong on stage 15 of the 2003 Tour de France, when he snagged his handlebar on a child's bag on the Col du Tourmalet. If that happened on the Joux Plane next week, is the race neutralised? It was a crash caused by an outside influence, and happened to the yellow jersey. Is this constantly going to be the case now? What if Froome gets a flag in his spokes on Sunday, and loses time, is that neutralised? How far does this go?
This could affect cycling in other ways, probably in the introduction of more barriers, and more policing of fans, to avoid another situation like this.
Well, Adam Yates was perfectly happy with the way things went down, saying that he wouldn't "want to take the jersey like that. I'd rather take it with my legs." People are saying he was a beneficiary of the same rule as Froome, but that’s simply not true. He was leading into a flat finish when an unpredictable event happened. Froome crashed on an uphill finish, which should not be neutralised. It's difficult to say if the UCI even know exactly how the events transpired.
The situation seems to be: it's not how you crash, it's what you crash into.
Discuss, please. Your opinions are very necessary here, because there will never be agreement about this.