Tour de France: Porte and Thomas crash out, Froome keeps yellow
GRAPHIC CONTENT: Horror crashes overshadow stage nine of the race and prompt questions over safety
The ninth stage of the Tour de France turned into a savage Sunday for the peloton as they negotiated three fearsome climbs in the Alps during the 181.5km between Nantua and Chambery.
The good news for British cycling fans was that Chris Froome retained the yellow jersey with a ride of real guts but the bad news was his compatriot and Team Sky teammate Geraint Thomas crashed out of the tour. The Welshman broke a collarbone in a nasty fall and he wasn't the only rider to come to grief on a brutal day's racing.
Also out is Dutch rider Robert Gesink, who finished second in Saturday's stage eight but skidded off the wet road early on in Sunday, and Australia's Richie Porte. The BMC rider suffered a horrific crash as he descended the Mont du Chat towards the end of the stage, hurtling into a rock face at an estimated speed of 45 mph and breaking his collarbone and pelvis .
According to The Guardian, the front wheel of Porte's bike "dropped off the left-hand side of the tarmac on a sinuous stretch of road" and he careered out of control, skewing across the tarmac to his right, smashing into the rocks before bouncing into the road where he was hit by Dan Martin. The Irishman was unsaddled but was able to remount and finish the race. "I was very, very lucky to get away as lightly as I did," Martin said later. "Richie lost it on one corner - it was so slippery. I guess the organisers got what they wanted. It was so slippery under the trees."
As riders continued to hurtle down the mountain, medics put a neck brace around Porte and stretchered him into an ambulance that transported him to hospital. The horror crash overshadowed the climax to the stage that saw Colombian Rigoberto Uran just edge out Frenchman Romain Bardet on the finishing line. Froome came home in third and in doing so picked up four bonus seconds to extend his overall lead over Italy's Fabio Aru to 18 seconds. Third is Bardet, who lies 51 seconds behind the Briton.
"Questions must be asked of race organisers Amaury Sports Organisation (ASO) for including a treacherous final descent after one of the toughest climbing stages in recent Tour history," says The Guardian.
"Relieved to finish safely but thoughts are with everyone that crashed today, especially Geraint Thomas & Richie Porte," tweeted an exhausted Froome. The defending teammate has relied heavily on his Welsh teammate throughout his Tour career and he is good friends with Porte.
In a statement posted on the Team Sky website, Thomas spoke of his "devastation" at being forced to abandon the race and he then described what happened: "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," he said. "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...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 it’s broken."
Serious though Porte's injuries are, a statement released by his team, BMC, said: "At this stage, the injuries will not require surgery. The plan is to re-evaluate Richie tomorrow morning [Monday] and confirm that he is stable enough to be transferred home… 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."