Thomas de Gendt took back the polka dot jersey as the Tour de France's King of the Mountains with an impressive ride up a shortened Mont Ventoux on Thursday. His impressive efforts was overshadowed by wild action in the peloton behind him. A three-man breakaway that contained Chris Froome crashed into a motorbike in the final kilometers, forcing the yellow jersey to run towards the finish after his bike broke.
Froome will still wear the yellow jersey during the Stage 13 time trial on Friday. Provisionally, Adam Yates was the new leader atop the general classification based on the actual finishes on Stage 12, but had the crash not occurred Froome would have strengthened his lead over the field. The Tour de France powers that be made the correct decision to let Froome keep the jersey. He now holds a lead of 47 seconds over Yates.
The early break consisted of 13 riders: de Gendt, Bert-Jan Lindeman, Sep Vanmarcke, Stef Clement, Serge Pauwels, Daniel Teklehaimanot, Andre Greipel, Bryan Coquard, Sylvain Chavanel, Chris Anker Sorensen, Iljo Keisse, Daniel Navarro and Cyril Lemoine. It gained a lead of nearly 19 minutes over the peloton before the peloton began reeling it in.
Team Etixx-Quick Step drove the pace and a split in the peloton midway through the stage, pushing the polka dot jersey, Thibaut Pinot, and green jersey, Peter Sagan, into a second peloton. All of the current top general classification contenders stayed in the front peloton: Froome, Yates, Dan Martin, Nairo Quintana, Romain Bardet and company.
A crash on the descent of the Category 3 climb, Col des Trois Termes, brought both pelotons back together. Simon Gerrans of Orica-BikeExchange lost traction around a bend while setting the pace at the front of the peloton, rolling onto his back and taking out three Sky riders with him. Froome went to the front and slowed down the peloton so that the fallen riders could catch up.
The crash was also good news for the breakaway, whose lead approached 10 minutes in the kilometers just before Ventoux. They started the slopes less than eight minutes up, 11 strong minus Greipel, who peeled off doing a hard pull for his teammate, de Gendt.
With seven kilometers to go to Chalet Reynard, the break had winnowed down to three: de Gendt, Navarro and Pauwels. A couple kilometers back, Alejandro Valverde kicked up the pace in hopes of softening the Sky train for his teammate, Quintana. Quintana made his first prod against Froome with roughly six kilometers to go, but was inevitably hauled back in by Sky, dragging Froome with.
Navarro fell off with three kilometers to go, leaving the two Belgian riders at the front, briefly, before rejoining them for the finish. In the peloton, Froome made the acceleration that appeared to leave Quintana for good. Quintana fell off the wheel, leaving Froome and BMC's Richie Porte by themselves before they were joined by Bauke Mollema.
The trio was setting a heavy an impressive pace towards the finish before a fan apparently jumped in front of the motorbike that was clearing a path, causing the crash and chain reaction.
Tour de France Stage 12 top 10
1. Thomas de Gendt - 4h 31'51"
2. Serge Pauwels + 2"
3. Daniel Navarro + 14"
4. Stef Clement + 40"
5. Sylvain Chavanel + 40"
6. Bert-Jan Lindeman + 2'52"
7. Daniel Teklehaimanot + 3'13"
8. Sep Vanmarcke + 3'26"
9. Chris Sorensen + 4'23"
10. Bauke Mollema + 5'05"
General classification top 10 after Stage 12
1. Chris Froome
2. Adam Yates + 47"
3. Bauke Mollema + 56"
4. Nairo Quintana + 1'01"
5. Romain Bardet + 1'15"
6. Alejandro Valverde + 1'32"
7. Tejay Van Garderen + 1'32"
8. Fabio Aru + 1'54"
9. Dan Martin + 1'56"
10. Joaquim Rodriguez + 2'11"