Italian champion Fabio Aru (Astana) “didn’t see the moment Chris Froome had a mechanical” immediately before he attacked on the Tour de France‘s ninth stage to Chambéry.
Race leader Chris Froome lifted his hand to signal to the race and to his team behind that he needed a new bike. Aru, behind Froome, rode by and attacked.
“I didn’t see it because I was attacking, I wanted to attack from far out,” Aru explained in a crowd of journalists standing at the Astana bus.
“I saw that I wasn’t making a big difference, then I heard over the radio Froome had stopped. I didn’t see it in the moment that he had a mechanical.
“I wanted to attack at that point, when there was six kilometres to go. I didn’t see it. I heard it on the radio, then I stopped.”
Critics blasted Aru when he launched his attack at 32 kilometres remaining on the Mont du Chat. Others joined him, but seemingly refused to work with him and he eased off.
“We will have to see what Aru has to say about it. I’ll certainly ask him about it when I see him,” Froome explained.
“I didn’t see his attack, I was too busy trying to change my bike. It sounded like he sat up, but that group then sat up but I think that was more to due to Richie [Porte] from what I understand.
“Richie said to the rest of the guys, ‘Listen, it isn’t the moment to attack the leader of the race.’ I want to say a massive thank you to Richie and the rest of the group for not taking advantage of that situation.”
Froome seemly body-checked Aru shortly after, but it appears that he was knocked off balance by a fan.
“He was almost falling because he’d come close to a fan, he lost his balance and the elbow came out for balance,” Aru added.
“Actually, he said sorry, it wasn’t on purpose, no way.”
Aru said that there was nothing to clarify from his attack, however.
“We were fine from there to the finish. He saw that I stopped so he didn’t have any problem.”
“And we had the same plan today,” the team’s sports director, Dmitriy Fofonov said.
“If he wants to attack, he attacks, we wanted to anticipate the moves and attack early anyway.
“I don’t know what problem Froome had, a mechanical or if he needed a gel or bidon. It happened before on Alpe d’Huez. He called the car for a gel, which wasn’t authorised.
“If you have a problem you have a problem because once the race starts, the race is on. No one waits afterwards for anyone else when crashes.”