British rider Chris Froome extended his overall lead of the Tour de France despite the defending champion crashing during the 19th stage on Friday.
Froome’s hopes of claiming a third title was threatened when he hit the ground just eight miles from the finish of the 91-mile ride that featured four ascents in the Alps. He borrowed a teammate’s bike and kept his now torn yellow jersey after crossing the finish line 36 seconds behind Romain Bardet, who posted the first French victory in the 2016 Tour.
“I think that I hit one of the white lines on the road and lost my front wheel,” Froome said at the finish with his right knee bandaged. “I’m OK, I’m lucky that nothing is seriously injured. A crash like that could have gone either way and I’m grateful that nothing is injured. You never have a quiet day at the Tour.
“I just lost a bit of skin but today is a day when I’m grateful for that four minute-advantage to fall back on a bit. It was great for me to have teammates all the way up until the finish there. … It was a great team effort and it feels great to be one day closer to Paris.”
Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez finished the stage in second place in the same time as fellow countryman Alejandro Valverde, 23 seconds back.
Froome (82 hours, 10 minutes, 37 seconds) holds an overall lead of 4 minutes, 11 seconds over Bardet, who climbed to second place overall. Two-time runner-up Nairo Quintana of Colombia moved up to third, 4:27 back.
The 31-year-old Froome, the 2013 and 2015 champion, needs to negotiate the last competitive ride in the tricky mountain stage on Saturday before the ceremonial ride to Paris.
“Tomorrow is going to be hard, it’s going to be really hard and I’m sure that I’m going to be a bit stiff after today,” Froome said. “Hopefully I can rely on my teammates and it’s just one last push.”
Britain’s Adam Yates dropped from third to fourth, 4:36 behind Fromme and nine seconds behind Quintana. Yates was handed a 10-second penalty by the Tour’s race jury for a “handsling” in Friday’s stage.
Dutch rider Bauke Mollema, who was in second place, also crashed and his hopes of finishing on the podium in Paris disappeared. He is now in 10th place.