Stage 12 of the Tour de France has been marred by a spectator’s crazy clash with Chris Froome, and a former champ breaking his back.
Geraint Thomas became the first man to win up l’Alpe d’Huez with the yellow jersey on his shoulders on Thursday night as he extended his lead.
Thomas, who took the yellow jersey when he won Wednesday’s 11th stage, prevailed again in the 12th at top of the 21-hair-pinned climb, one of the most iconic of the Tour.
But the Welshman was heavily booed by the crowd at the podium ceremony while his Team Sky leader, fellow Briton and reigning champion Froome, who finished fourth, was also jeered all the way up the famous ascent.
Thomas accelerated in the last stretch to beat Dutchman Tom Dumoulin and France’s Romain Bardet who were second and third, two and three seconds behind respectively. Froome was also three seconds off the pace as the boos came from the crowd.
The four-time champion was constantly jeered on the last stretch, a 13.8km effort on an average gradient of 7.9 per cent, with one spectator running onto the road and trying to shove the controversial star.
There were also unconfirmed reports that Froome was spat at by spectators.
“Obviously it’s not nice (the boos) but everyone is entitled to their opinion, but we need to be safe,” Thomas said.
Overall, Thomas leads Froome by one minute 39 seconds and Dumoulin by 1:50.
Former champion Vincenzo Nibali crashed with about 4km left and ended seventh, 13 seconds off the pace.
The 2014 winner was later forced to withdraw with a fractured vertabra.
“There were two police motorbikes and the road became narrow, there were no barriers and Froome attacked, traffic slowed down and I fell. My back hurts. I had trouble breathing and now I don’t feel well standing,” the Italian said after the stage.
Thomas, who did not respond to Froome’s attack, said on Wednesday the four-time champion remained the team leader, but he appeared to be the strongest rider at l’Alpe d’Huez.
“In my eyes, Froomey is still our leader,” Thomas said.
Three of the Tour’s top sprinters withdrew during stage 12.
Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen and Colombian Fernando Gaviria, winners of two stages each, had no fuel left in the tank.
German Andre Greipel also pulled out. Last year’s runner-up Rigoberto Uran abandoned the race prior to the start of the stage after failing to recover from injuries sustained in a crash on Sunday.