SAVOIE, FRANCE – Chris Froome emerged from the debris of the Tour de France’s “devastating” ninth stage with his yellow jersey intact, but the race is over for Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas.
Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran won the dramatic, mountainous 181.5-km stage from Nantua to Chambery, but spectacular crashes saw Porte and Thomas taken to the hospital, and 10 others also knocked out of the race.
Porte’s crash was the most sickening, as he clipped the grass verge on the inside of a bend on the lightning quick descent down the fearsome Mont du Chat.
He came off his bike and skidded across the tarmac into Dan Martin, clattering both into the rock face on the other side of the road.
He lay motionless for some time while being attended to by medics before being taken to a hospital.
Porte’s team, BMC, said he suffered a fractured collarbone and a fractured pelvis, both non-displaced.
“He had a bit more fear than pain but for the moment it’s reassuring as he was conscious and that’s the most important thing,” said Florence Pommerie, one of the Tour doctors.
“These guys are tough, but we need to wait a bit longer to get the medical results.”
Martin was saved by his helmet which took the brunt of the impact and was destroyed. Even though he crashed a second time on that descent, he had only lost 1 minute 15 seconds by the end of the stage.
Thomas crashed on a different descent, made treacherous by rain, earlier in the day, suffering a broken collarbone.
It made for a bittersweet day for Froome who, despite increasing his lead, lost his chief Team Sky lieutenant Thomas and good friend Porte.
“I feel bad, it was a really bad, bad crash,” Froome said of Porte’s spill.
“And my teammate as well, he’s broken his collarbone. But that image is hard to look at,” added Froome, watching a video of Porte’s crash.
“I hope he recovers well because it’s tough to see that.”
Froome now leads Fabio Aru by 18 seconds overall, with Frenchman Romain Bardet 51 seconds back in third.
“I’m very, very happy with that and still in yellow, but it was really hard today,” said Froome.