A spider in the road is not usually an issue at the Tour de France but, when it is the “kilometre-to-go spider” – as the red inflatable arch is nicknamed – that is a rather different matter.
The main group of riders found this out to their consternation when the arch fell on to the road in front of them as they lined up to finish the first Pyrenean stage of the race.
There were chaotic scenes as riders and motorbikes attempted to go under and over the arch, while police did their best to lift the obstacle off the road. It later transpired that the confusion was due to a cycling fan catching his belt in the cable that connected the generator to the inflatable, causing it to lose air.
The stage winner, Steve Cummings of Great Britain, had passed under the arch before it hit the deck, and was unaffected, as were the other frontrunners, but his fellow Briton Adam Yates, who was slightly ahead of the main peloton in pursuit of the white jersey of best young rider, was not so lucky. Yates fell over the inflatable, landing on his face and wandering around in a daze before sitting on the tarmac. His bike was on top of the deflated arch but eventually the pair were reunited and Yates pedalled painfully across the finish line.
“It was disappointing but what can you do when that thing falls on you?” said Yates, who received stitches to his chin afterwards. “I was going at 70-80km per hour, the barrier came down and I had no time to react. It was a good thing I was on my own or it could have been worse.”
While Yates recovered his wits, the main group of some 60 riders including Chris Froome was forced to a halt; after they set off again leading figures could be seen slowing the peloton down to wait for their fellow riders.
Later the race organisers took times for the overall standings at three kilometres to go, so that all the riders in the peloton with Froome would end up with the same time; Yates’s revised time meant he was set to be awarded the white jersey on Saturday morning.
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