A motorbike was parked on the left side of the road, and the peloton, fighting for position, swept past within inches - until Team Sunweb's Wilco Kelderman clipped the motorcycle and crashed into the middle of the Sky train. Kelderman was the only rider to abandon the race with a broken finger, but several pre-race favourites lost many minutes.
Adam Yates, the race's best young rider, went down and gave up the white jersey to Davide Formolo (Cannondale-Drapac). Landa lost almost 27 minutes, and while Thomas limited his losses to five and change, he was angry after the stage.
"It's ridiculous, that shouldn't happen," Thomas said. "We were racing to the bottom of the climb and next thing I know someone in front of me hits the motorbike and we go down. My shoulder popped out as well.
"I felt good but then I crashed and that was it, race over, so it's really disappointing. It was just stopped on the side of the road and we were all racing for position obviously so we'd filled the road. Somebody hit it in front of me and there was obviously nowhere to go, straight down. It's too early to think at the moment I'll just let it settle down because I'm a bit angry at the minute and I'll have to sit down and work out what we're going to do tomorrow."
"I'm feeling s*** because we lost Wilco Kelderman," Dumoulin said. "Wilco was feeling very good and I was really comfortable with him and actually now I can really not be happy with my performance today because he would be so important in the last one-and-a-half weeks so I'm really disappointed for him. Of course my own climb was really good and I'm very happy with that but losing Wilco is a real shame, we had a nice group together. I don't know what this stupid motorbike was doing, I'm so disappointed. I could only just avoid it, I only saw it at the last moment and I was actually just lucky. If I was maybe 2cm to the right I would have gone down. They say it happens but it shouldn’t happen."
Should the stage results have been neutralised?
In the Tour de France last year, a run-in with a motorcycle on the Mont Ventoux led to Chris Froome running up the mountain, and the GC gaps being neutralised. This time, the crash happened before the climb began, and pundit Brian Smith (former Dimension Data manager) opined that the idea of wiping out the gaps on Blockhaus didn't make sense.
"I think it would be the wrong thing to do to neutralize it," Smith said. "I know we’ve seen circumstances in the Tour de France last year when they piled into the motorbike with Froome running and they neutralized the times. I think in this instance, from my point of view, you couldn’t neutralize it – the race was on.
"How do you think Movistar would feel if they neutralized this? How do you think Tom Dumoulin and Thibaut Pinot would feel? They put in tremendous performances and I don’t think we can neutralize that. Questions have to be asked of the organisers. But we always say this, we always say we need to move on but we’ve had deaths in cycling because of this and we really have to just stop saying move on, we really have to do something about it. The time has passed."
Stage 9 Highlights