Chris Froome (Team Sky) survived a late crash on stage 19 of the Tour de France and although he finished the mountain stage on teammate Geraint Thomas' bike and conceded some seconds to his main rivals, he finished with a four minute buffer over his rivals on GC.
Froome's front wheel slipped out in the wet conditions on the descent of the penultimate climb and just before the start of the ascent to the finish. The race leader brought Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) down with him and was forced to take a bike from Thomas and ride to the finish.
"I think that I hit one of the white lines on the road and lost my front wheel," Froome said after the stage.
Although he made contact with the leaders as the climb started Froome remained near the back of the group on the lower slopes as he took his time getting used to the different position and set-up.
He moved closer to the front with the aid of his teammates and only lost contact as rivals attacked in the final kilometre. The stage went to Romain Bardet (Ag2R) with Froome finishing in 9th, 36 seconds down.
"I'm okay, I’m lucky that nothing is serious is injured. 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 with Wout Poels in particular and all the guys. It was a great team effort and it feels great to be one day closer to Paris," he said.
"Today showed exactly why the race isn't over. A crash like that could have gone either way and I'm grateful that nothing is injured. Never a quiet day at the Tour."
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Froome finished on Thomas's bike, which uses oval chain rings compared to Froome's O-symmetric set up.
"I knew that the car was far back and my bike, I could see it wasn't useable after the crash. Thanks to Geraint for his bike. I rode that to the finish, and it was alright."
Froome has one more day in the mountains before the final stage to Paris. He leads Bardet in the overall by 4:11.
"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. Hopefully I can rely on my teammates and it's just one last push."