Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte are out of the Tour de France after crashing on stage nine, with Thomas sustaining a suspected broken collarbone, but Chris Froome still leads
Chris Froome will ride the rest of the Tour de France without his first lieutenant, Geraint Thomas, and close friend and principal rival, Richie Porte, after the Welshman and Australian were forced to quit the race following slippery descents which turned the ninth stage into a chaotic demolition derby from Nantua to Chambry. Froome retained the yellow jersey after the stage was won by the Colombian Rigoberto Urn.
The days official medical bulletin listed 11 fallers with a range of classic crash injuries: a shoulder dislocation and punctured lung for Manuele Mori, a broken vertebra for Robert Gesink, a dislocated kneecap for Jess Herrada, who was announced as having abandoned but finished the stage. The 2016 King of the Mountains, Rafal Majka, was blamed for the Thomas crash and ended up with deep abrasions to both knees and elbows.
Thomas said: Everyone was nervous, everyone wanted to be at the front and a few people were battling to get between myself, Froomey and the rest of the boys. I let [Rafal] Majka in and then he came down right in front of me on a straight bit of road. I had nowhere to go, went over the top of him, and landed on my collarbone.
Team doctor Jimmy [Juan Mercadel] said he thought it was broken but I got back on the bike and carried on down the descent, but when I got on the flat I knew something was wrong. Then the race doctor said exactly the same so I ended up stopping then, went for a scan, and its broken.
Thomas, who was lying second overall behind his team leader Froome, had won stage one in Dsseldorf and wore the race leaders yellow jersey until the first tough hilltop finish at La Planche des Belles Filles last Wednesday. He had already survived three minor crashes in the Tours opening eight days but his fourth, on the descent from the first hors catgorie climb of the Tour, the Col de la Biche, 70km into the stage, left him lying in the gutter, before he was taken to hospital. He was forced out of the Giro dItalia this year after a mass pile-up caused by a motorbike.
G has broken his collarbone for sure, which is devastating for him, said Team Skys general manager, Sir Dave Brailsford. He had the crash in the Giro, then the rollercoaster of coming here and being in yellow after winning the first stage, and then breaking his collarbone today.
Well get our arms around him and make sure hes all right. Well get him back on track but thats not nice to see.
Porte fell about 95km later as the elite group of race favourites around Froome were flying down from the final ascent of the day, the Mont du Chat, high above the town of Aix-les-Bains. The BMC leader was travelling at more than 45mph when his front wheel dropped off the left-hand side of a sinuous stretch of road, he lost control and bounced off the rock face on the other side. As he did so he was hit by the Irishman Daniel Martin, who was able to pick himself up after a high-speed somersault over Porte but who then fell again immediately before finishing ninth.
I dont think anyone wanted to take risks there, but it was so slippery under the trees, said Martin. Richie locked up his back wheel, went straight into the grass, just wiped out, and his bike just collected me. Earlier, Martin was within an ace of being brought down in Thomass crash. He added: I was very lucky the first time. Geraint went down and his bike hit my handlebars. I got through but my luck run out.
The Porte spill was followed by a second one, in which Martin was given a replacement wheel, only to find it did not mesh with his brakes. I got a spare wheel off [the neutral] Mavic [service car] but I didnt have any brakes. I couldnt stop and went straight on. The second one wasnt really much. I just got a spare bike off the team car and got going again.
Urn had problems of his own as one of the two fallers bikes hit his rear derailleur a glancing blow, making it impossible for him to change gear.
Porte lay still on the road, was placed on a body board and taken to hospital in the race ambulance. The official race doctor Florence Pommery, who had tended him by the roadside, said his injuries did not appear to be serious. Id say there was more fear than harm. He was perfectly conscious, was speaking normally and could remember everything about the crash. The official medical bulletin said he had a blow to the head, (without apparent concussion) and bruising to his pelvis; X-ray results were awaited.
BMC team doctor Max Testa later said Porte had suffered a broken collarbone and a fractured pelvis.
Normally, a fractured clavicle and pelvis would require four to six weeks recovery, providing there are no complications, Testa said. If everything goes to plan, Richie could be back on the bike at the beginning of August and slowly build his fitness up from there.
BMC sports director Fabio Baldato said Porte had a lot of pain but had remained conscious after the crash.
For Thomas this was the latest in a series of major crashes in the past three years. The Welsh double Olympic gold medallist finished the Tour in 2013 with a cracked pelvis crashed out of Paris-Nice in 2014, when second overall, and was forced out of this years Giro dItaliaafter a mass pile-up caused by a motorbike. He has hit a tree in Tirreno-Adriatico, a telegraph pole at Gap in the 2015 Tour, fell spectacularly in the 2015 Paris-Roubaix, and saw his chances in last years Olympic road race dashed by a nasty fall on the final descent.
Froomes hand strengthens as he builds title momentum
Chris Froome walked out of his press conference after the stage in irritation after the same journalist asked him a question that had already been raised regarding an apparent falling out with Fabio Aru, but the yellow jersey owner had every right to be on edge. He was far from the only one, after a day of utter chaos with nerves, tempers, jerseys, skins, and fortunes all frayed by the end.
Froome arrived in Chambry with his chances of taking a fourth Tour strengthened after a chaotic 181 kilometres through the Jura, which enabled him to pull away from key rivals such as Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador and Richie Porte, the latter in extremely unfortunate circumstances.
Froome even managed to increase his overall lead by four seconds thanks a time bonus for third place at the finish, where the only overall contenders to finish on his heels were Romain Bardet who came within two kilometres of finishing the stage Fabio Aru, the Italians teammate Jakob Fuglsang, and the Colombian Rigoberto Urn, winner of the Tours toughest stage and back to his best after a spell in the wilderness. Nairo Quintana and Simon Yates were in a quintet 1min 15sec back, so within reach, but after a 4min 19sec loss, Contador may not even make the top 10 in Paris.
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