Chris Froome was handed a timely reminder that this Tour de France is far from over when he narrowly avoided a crash on stage 16 to Gap. The maillot jaune holder was forced off the road on the final descent when he was following Alberto Contador around one particular corner, and the Saxo Tinkoff leader crashed. The Spaniard picked himself back up, but on the descent made famous by Joseba Beloki’s crash in 2003, today’s incident was a demonstration of just how quickly a rider's Tour de France luck can turn.
Froome’s lead remains intact after Rui Costa (Movistar) soloed clear to win his second stage in three years, and Froome was also able to put time into Laurens ten Dam but he was forced onto the defensive on the final climb of the day.
"This race is far from over. One incident, one mechanical or crash in the wrong moment and your Tour can be over. In my mind this Tour is not over until I cross the final line on the Champs-Élysées," the race leader said in his post race press conference.
With such a substantial lead and tomorrow’s time trial to come, Froome was always going to face up to a peloton snapping at his heels after Monday’s rest day. Katusha was the first to play its hand on the lower slopes of the Col de Manse before Contador fired three volleys across Sky’s bow. Richie Porte stood firm and protected his leader, but the descent would end up proving to be the most dangerous moment for Froome.
"I personally think that teams are starting to get desperate now and therefore are taking uncalculated risks," Froome added.
"Kreuziger and Contador were taking it in turns to come from the back with speed and start a small gap on the descent in a hope that we would lay off and give them a bit more space.
"On this particular corner Contador came through particularly quickly and he struggled to keep hold of it and crashed just in front of me. I went off to the left, slightly off the road but it was just grass."
Contador came off worst, glancing down at his right wrist and knee once he and Froome made contact with the leaders.
Froome was critical of the Spaniard in the press conference before adding that he had to follow him.
"Personally I do think that he was taking too many risks down there, and evidently he did go a little too fast and he couldn’t hold his own speed and he crashed. I was laying off just a little bit but enough to try and stay in touch with him."