BERGERAC, France (AP) Race leader Chris Froome has described suggestions that he deliberately barged into rival Fabio Aru during a grueling Tour de France stage as ''crazy.''
Froome, who leads Aru by 18 seconds after nine stages, said during Monday's first rest day that he just made a mistake.
Many race observers thought the British rider might have barged into Aru in retaliation after the Italian champion appeared to launch an attack when Froome had a mechanical problem on the Mont du Chat climb.
''It was clear to me I had to change bikes straight away and it appeared that Fabio Aru accelerated at that moment,'' Froome said in comments provided by the Sky Team. ''I think certainly in the peloton there's a bit of an unwritten rule that when the race leader has some kind of an issue that prevents him from racing, then the group doesn't take advantage of a situation like that.''
Froome later caught the Aru group but said the contact with the Astana rider was unintentional.
''Once I got back to the group I think the very next hairpin we went round I lost my balance a little bit and swerved to the right,'' he said. ''Aru happened to be on my right and he had to swerve as well. It was a genuine mistake and I think Fabio was the first to recognize that. I apologized straight away on the road as soon as it happened.
''Any suggestion that it was on purpose is just crazy. First of all, it's not anything I would ever do, and I was already on my spare bike, so to risk putting my derailleur into Aru's front wheel - it's just crazy. I wouldn't risk that at all.''
Sunday's stage to Chambery was filled with drama and crashes. Among those who did not finish the stage was Froome's teammate Geraint Thomas, who retired with a fractured pelvis and collarbone, along with concussion.
''It's a massive blow to the team,'' Froome said.