ARENBERG PORTE DU HAINAUT, France, July 09, 2014 (AFP) – Defending champion
Chris Froome crashed out of the Tour de France on Wednesday after falling
twice on a wet and treacherous stage five.
The second time, the 29-year-old was visibly injured and was seen shaking
his head and holding his right arm before climbing into a Sky team car.
That signalled the end of his attempt to retain the yellow jersey he won in
Paris last year.
The last time a reigning champion had been forced to abandon the Tour was
in 1980 when Frenchman Bernard Hinault quit due to a knee injury, although
that wasn’t from a crash.
In 1983, yellow jersey wearer Pascal Simon was forced out several days
after a crash and he would never win the Grand Boucle.
It topped off a nightmare two days for the Kenyan-born Briton who also came
off his bike on Tuesday’s fourth stage.
Television pictures missed his two falls on a day in which numerous riders
crashed even before the feared cobbled sections began.
After his first fall, Froome was seen with ripped jersey and shorts down
his right hand side, trying to fix a mechanical problem by the side of the
Blood and grazing could also be seen on his hip through a rip in his shorts.
His Sky teammates quickly dropped back to pace him back up to the peloton.
Already he had begun the day with a splint to protect his left wrist that
was injured in Tuesday’s crash.
But the second time he went down, along with a teammate, Froome looked
He stood by the side of the road holding his right arm across his body and
making no attempt to get up and ride on.
When he started shaking his head, it was clear his race was over and he was
soon bundled into the safety of a team car.
Incredibly, on a stage where the seven cobbled sections totalling 13km had
been the major concern for riders, Froome crashed out before they even reached
His was one of a great number of falls as potential winners Alejandro
Valverde and Tejay Van Garderen also went down before the cobbles.
That cost them dearly as they were caught behind a split in the main
peloton from the first set of cobbles and forced to chase hard to get back in
The 152.km stage from Ypres, Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, proved
even more hazardous than anticipated.
If the cobbles themselves weren’t tricky enough, driving rain overnight and
into Wednesday made them so dangerous that two of the original nine sections
had to be removed from the course.
Yet still the conditions caused havoc.
Sprint king and three-stage winner Marcel Kittel crashed around halfway
through the day’s racing.
He lost control on a bend and went down, causing two other riders to crash.
When he got up he had a noticeable rip in his shorts.
It was a bad day for sprinters such as Andre Greipel and Alexander
Kristoff, the Norwegian who was second to Kittel on Tuesday’s fourth stage,
both came off their bikes.
Another German Tony Martin, who was part of a nine-man breakaway on the
stage, also fell along with Janier Acevedo, whose crash cost him his place
amongst the leaders and saw him swallowed by the peloton.
But the total number of fallers was impossible to count as riders were
going down at almost every roundabout and bend.