Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas crash out of Tour as Froome keeps yellow


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.

Chris Froome rides up the Mont du Chat during stage nine, a 181.5km stage from Nantua to Chambry. Photograph: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

With three long, brutally steep ascents where the riders were reduced to walking pace and corresponding descents made slippery by early rain, with more than 4,700 metres vertical elevation, and half the hors catgorie climbs in the entire race, this stage pushed all the riders to their limits, and some Porte, Robert Gesink, Geraint Thomas, Arnaud Dmare beyond those limits.

The crashes eliminated five riders, but more may follow, and seven finished outside the time limit, including Tuesdays winner Dmare and three of his teammates in the FDJ team who had nursed him through the stage. Mondays rest day after the flight to the Dordogne will provide some time for repose and reflection but recovery may take a little longer.

An early offensive by Romain Bardets AG2R team on the perilously slippy descent from the first major climb, the Cte de la Biche, set the tone, with the local riders attacking both the early escape a mere 39 riders to Saturdays 50 and the main peloton. They were lucky only to leave the road once, and it was on this madcap descent that Thomass race ended with a broken collarbone.

Contadors nightmare began on the second major climb, the Grand Colombier, which took the riders back over the same ridge as La Biche, but further along. At the foot of the ascent, he had to make an effort to regain contact with Froomes group after losing ground on the descent, and higher up he pulled his foot out of the pedal and fell.

After a brief respite, the Mont du Chat saw the first major sort-out between the contenders, punctuated by what could prove one of the races talking points when Aru attempted to dislodge Froome in a carbon copy of his former leader Vincenzo Nibalis attack in 2015 when the Team Sky leader suffered a mechanical fault in the Alps. Six kilometres from the top of the Chat, Froome slipped back and raised his arm to request a bike change, which Aru saw as a cue to sprint ahead. He was restrained by Porte, Quintana and Contador, and the group slowed, stalling as Froome was allowed to regain contact.

No sooner was Froome back in the fold than Arus team-mate Fuglsang sprang away, gaining 30sec, as if looking to profit from the fact the leader might be a little puffed. At some point in the chaos, Froome could be seen riding Aru into the side of the road as they exited a hairpin bend, but Froome insisted there was no malice in it.

I wasnt aware of Fabios attack. I only found out after the finish. I had a bit of a wobble on one of the switchbacks but in no way was it a swipe at Aru. I just lost my steering round the corner.

Froomes team-mate Mikel Nieve was delegated to hold Fuglsang at bay, and that increase in pace both did for Contador, and provoked a series of probing accelerations from Porte, Aru, Dan Martin and Bardet. Each time, Froome – by now without team mates – was forced to respond. It was classic bike racing and eventually, as Quintana and Yates began to struggle, the race leader answered in kind. His efforts approaching the top of the climb had Bardet, Martin and Aru on the point of rupture.

Bardet made his move a couple of kilometres after Porte and Martins crash, taking a hundred metres lead on Froome, Uran, Fuglsang and Aru. He stretched that to 26sec on the run-in to Chambry, overhauling another Frenchman, Warren Barguil, who had led the race over the Colombier and the Chat, and who now has a serious option on victory in the King of the Mountains prize. A tantalising prospect beckoned: a stage win in the home town of the Ag2R team, a 10sec time bonus, maybe a threat to Froome. It was not to be.

Perhaps unwisely, Bardet left Barguil behind on the last rise before the run-in, and behind, Froome and the Astana duo of Fuglsang and Aru put their differences behind them, with Urn chipping in to the chase despite having only the use of his highest gear. The quartet scooped up Barguil and added Bardet with two kilometres remaining, setting up a six-man sprint finish which went to Urn by a tyre from Barguil.

The last touch of cruelty was reserved for the young Breton, who raised his arm in the air, and was immediately put live on French television with the interviewer predicting his victory even as the photo finish was consulted. His tears were expected, but when they came, they were bitter ones of defeat, ending a day of brutal beauty such as cycling only rarely produces.

Stage nine results

Rigoberto Uran (Colombia / Cannondale) 5:07:22 2. Warren Barguil (France / Sunweb) ST 3. Chris Froome (Britain / Team Sky) 4. Romain Bardet (France / AG2R) 5. Fabio Aru (Italy / Astana) 6. Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark / Astana) 7. George Bennett (New Zealand / LottoNL) +1:15 8. Mikel Landa (Spain / Team Sky) 9. Daniel Martin (Ireland / Quick-Step) 10. Nairo Quintana (Colombia / Movistar) 11. Simon Yates (Britain / Orica) 12. Tiesj Benoot (Belgium / Lotto) +3:32 13. Mikel Nieve (Spain / Team Sky) 14. Louis Meintjes (South Africa / UAE Team Emirates) 15. Pierre Latour (France / AG2R) +4:19 16. Alexis Vuillermoz (France / AG2R) 17. Sergio Henao (Colombia / Team Sky) 18. Damiano Caruso (Italy / BMC Racing) 19. Primoz Roglic (Slovenia / LottoNL) 20. Alberto Contador (Spain / Trek) 21. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands / Trek) +4:50 22. Jan Bakelants (Belgium / AG2R) +6:17 23. Daniel Navarro (Spain / Cofidis) 24. Emanuel Buchmann (Germany / BORA) +7:13 25. Carlos Betancur (Colombia / Movistar) 26. Brice Feillu (France / Fortuneo) +8:07 27. Tony Gallopin (France / Lotto) 28. Jarlinson Pantano (Colombia / Trek)

General classification

Chris Froome (Britain / Team Sky) 38:26:28 2. Fabio Aru (Italy / Astana) +18 3. Romain Bardet (France / AG2R) +51 4. Rigoberto Uran (Colombia / Cannondale) +55 5. Jakob Fuglsang (Denmark / Astana) +1:37 6. Daniel Martin (Ireland / Quick-Step) +1:44 7. Simon Yates (Britain / Orica) +2:02 8. Nairo Quintana (Colombia / Movistar) +2:13 9. Mikel Landa (Spain / Team Sky) +3:06 10. George Bennett (New Zealand / LottoNL) +3:53

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