CHAMBERY, France (Reuters) - Fabio Aru was right to attack just as race leader Chris Froome raised his arm for assistance at a key moment of a punishing ninth stage of the Tour de France, three-times champion Greg LeMond said on Sunday.
Astana rider Aru powered away from the yellow jersey group with 6km left on the last climb of the day to the Mont du Chat just when Froome needed help from his team car.
A gentleman’s agreement states that riders do not attack their rivals if they are down, with some believing it should extend to cases when one of them suffers a mechanical.
Briton Froome said he had a mechanical and he changed bike, but none of his other rivals capitalized on the incident as they just stayed on Aru’s wheel, with Richie Porte even appearing to talk the Italian down.
“I think he was preparing to attack. You can’t just stop racing because somebody raises his arm. You’re 5km from the top of the climb you don’t stop racing,” LeMond, who is on the Tour as an analyst for Eurosport, said in a daily chat with Reuters.
“I just don’t think he did it intentionally, he was probably ready to attack. What I didn’t understand is that everyone else followed and then stopped,” the American added.
Porte crashed on the final descent, taking Ireland’s Dan Martin down with him, but nobody waited for them.
“If anybody should have stopped it was when Porte crashed. Dan Martin went back up, they could have waited for him,” said LeMond, who won the Tour in 1986, 1989 and 1990.
LeMond added that Froome could have been raising his arm for another reason.
“You can’t stop the whole race because he raises his arm. How do you know, it could have been that he just wanted water,” he said.
“And his bike was perfectly ridable at the moment. It was just the gears being stuck apparently. What are you going to do? Stop the race because Froome puts his arm up?”
LeMond believes that his rivals could wait for him, but not at a critical point of the stage.
“You can do that if you’re 50, 60km from the finish and nothing is happening,” he said.
“In 1990, I flatted with one km to go, nobody waited on me, they went balls to the wall,” LeMond recalled.
The American was also very critical of Froome as he witnessed the three-times champion fiddling with his on-board computer on his new bike before making it back to the front group.
“It’s so bizarre to see him change his bike and then touch his computer. The main point is ‘get on your bike, get back to the front’,” said LeMond.
“Something I just don’t understand. I just don’t relate to that. You chose your equipment. If it falls apart it’s part of the deal.”
Editing by Ed Osmond