Chris Froome crashes post-stage after police mistake him for fan

Defending Tour champ Chris Froome, right, now sits third overall behind race leader and Team Sky teammate Geraint Thomas. AP Photo/Christophe Ena

SAINT-LARY-SOULAN, France -- Chris Froome's bad day continued after Stage 17 of the Tour de France when he crashed while riding down to his team bus after being mistaken for a fan by police, Team Sky said on Wednesday.

The defending champion, whose hopes of winning a fifth title faded when he cracked in the finale of the last 16-km climb up to the Col du Portet, was asked by a police officer to stop, which caused him to crash, Team Sky explained.

Fran Millar, Team Sky spokeswoman, called the mistaken identity "a genuine accident" and said Froome swerved when the officer tried to stop him, causing him to crash. Froome was "the first rider off the climb, as others stayed for podium (ceremonies) -- so the police officer thought he was a fan,'' Millar said. "But no harm done and no injury.''

Froome's wife Michelle told Reuters that she thought he had been mistaken for a fan because he was wearing a black raincoat. She added that he was not injured in the crash.

Many fans climb up the mountains on their bikes before the riders to find a spot where they can watch the peloton ride by. But race rules prohibit fans from riding bikes down the route immediately after the stage is finished, a rule that likely caused some confusion for the police officers involved.

It was just another bump in the road for Froome, who said after Stage 17 that he'll ride in support of teammate and overall leader Geraint Thomas.

The defending champion, who was looking to win a record-equaling fifth Tour, now trails his fellow Briton by 2:31 with three competitive stages left and Dutchman Tom Dumoulin sandwiched in between them. Froome, who was also hoping to be the first man in 20 years to achieve a Giro d'Italia-Tour double, has very limited options as he will not be allowed to attack the yellow jersey so close to Paris.

"I think he's got almost a two-minute lead on Dumoulin, which I think is a pretty comfortable lot," Froome told reporters after finishing 1:35 behind stage 17 winner Nairo Quintana and 48 seconds behind Thomas. "I imagine we'll be able to finish it off. We've just got to look after him now. I've won the last three Grand Tours and [Thomas has] ridden an absolutely faultless race this year, so he fully deserves to be in the yellow jersey, and fingers crossed he finishes it off and gets the job done in Paris."

Thursday's 18th stage is a flat route to Pau while Friday's 19th is a long mountainous trek finishing down the descent from the Col d'Aubisque. Saturday's individual time trial will determine the final standings ahead of Sunday's parade to the Champs-Elysees.

ESPN's Bonnie Ford and information from Reuters contributed to this report.