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July 09, 2014 – Defending champion Chris Froome crashed out of the Tour de France on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old Briton fell twice during a wet and treacherous fifth stage. The second time he was visibly injured and was seen shaking his head and holding his right arm before climbing into a Sky team car.
The stage from Ypres in Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut had been on everyone’s minds for days because of the potentially dangerous cobbled sections and the threat of adverse weather conditions.
The rain poured down overnight and into Wednesday making the roads slippery. But Froome didn’t even last to the cobbles, crashing first 40 minutes into the stage on a straight piece of road on normal tarmac.
It was his second fall in successive days. Although he got up and carried on he crashed again about an hour later, just before the cobbled sections began.
— peloton magazine (@pelotonmagazine) July 9, 2014
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 road. 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. The second time he went down, along with a teammate, Froome looked visibly distressed. When he started shaking his head, it was clear his race was over.
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 contact.
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.