BAGNERES-DE-BIGORRE, France (CT) – Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) was left bloodied and bruised on today’s stage 7 of the Tour de France when the flamme rouge — the one-kilometre-to-go gantry — fell onto the roadway.
The inflatable structure fell after the first five riders on the road had passed underneath: soon-to-be stage winner Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), Daryl Impey (Orica-BikeExchange), Dani Navarro (Cofidis), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), and race leader Greg Van Avermaet (BMC). All five riders had been part of an earlier breakaway.
Yates was riding on his own ahead of the peloton when he reached the flamme rouge, having attacked on the Col d’Aspin with 7km to go in the stage.
“At the top of the climb I followed Dan Martin who attacked and then I took a bit of a risk on the descent to try and get a gap, to try and get the white jersey,” Yates said after the stage. “Coming into 1km to go I had maybe five or so seconds.”
The gantry then fell directly in front of the 23-year-old Briton.
“The barrier came down and I had probably 0.2 seconds to react,” Yates said. “That’s not long enough to pull the brakes. I just hit the barrier and that’s it.
“At the end of the day it’s a good job it was just me on my own and not a peloton on a sprint stage when we’re going 70-80km/h because then it could have been a lot worse.”
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When the peloton reached the flamme rouge the gantry was on the ground and riders had to slow down and pass under a narrow section which bystanders had lifted off the ground. The bunch then rode calmly to the finish together.
“Obviously we all just said ‘stop’,” Geraint Thomas (Sky) explained after the stage. “If you get through and everyone’s sprinting and you’ve got a gap that’s just not fair. So we just stopped.”
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Yates later crossed the finish line with cuts on his shoulder, wrists, knee and chin, the last of which required four stitches.
Yates finished the stage more than three minutes behind the peloton as a result of his crash but he and others affected by the incident won’t lose any time on the stage.
Race organisers indicated after the stage that riders’ finishing times would be taken from the 3km-to-go point. At that point Yates had enough of an advantage over best young rider Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep) to move into the lead of that classification. Yates will now wear the white jersey on tomorrow’s eighth stage of the Tour.