Omega rider Jerome Pineau hinted it was no coincidence that his team and Belkin worked together.
"Look at the list of hotels and look who we were with yesterday," he said.
His teammate, Sylvain Chavanel, added: "You need some friends in the peloton."
Belkin rider Sep Vanmarcke said his Dutch team long ago identified this stage as a chance to spring a trap.
"We had planned this. The team leaders knew exactly where we would go," he said. "We knew there would be a lot of side wind there and that would be the best place to go."
When Valverde's rear wheel broke with more than 80 kilometers (50 miles) to ride, the Spaniard could only look on helpless as the pack sped on without him. With a new rear wheel, he and his Movistar teammates tried but failed to catch back up. He lost nearly nine minutes to Froome. Now out of podium contention entirely, in 16th place, Valverde suggested he might seek to exact revenge on teams — he named Belkin and Europcar — that didn't slow up for him, saying: "Maybe we can make the race tougher for those who didn't help me today and made it so I couldn't catch up."
Froome signaled his disapproval of the way Valverde was eliminated.
"I just hope that no team would do that to me if I had a mechanical problem," said the Team Sky leader.
On this very tactical 173-kilometer (107-mile) stage from Tours in the Loire valley, Contador's Saxo-Tinkoff team then pulled the same trick as Belkin and Omega. They hit the gas about 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the crowded finish in the town of Saint-Amand-Montrond, again splintering the pack. This time, Froome was among those left behind.