Defending champ Froome crashes out of Tour

An injured Chris Froome has withdrawn from the competition after crashing twice yesterday. Photos: Getty Images
An injured Chris Froome has withdrawn from the competition after crashing twice yesterday. Photos: Getty Images

Arenberg Porte du Hainaut: Defending Tour de France champion Chris Froome has become the first major victim of the feared fifth stage of this year's race after crashing twice in wet and treacherous conditions and withdrawing from the competition.

After his second fall, the 29-year-old Briton was visibly injured and was seen shaking his head and holding his right arm before climbing into a Sky team car.

Froome's exit from the Tour means that his Australian teammate, Richie Porte, will now become the British Sky team's leader for the overall race provided he can maintain his position at the end of Wednesday's stage from Yypres in Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut. 

Froome, who injured his left wrist and right hand and sustained abrasions down his left side in Tuesday's fourth stage, came to a halt on the left hand side of the road 85km into Wednesday's stage.

The stage from Ypres in Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut had been on everyone's minds for days because of the potentially dangerous cobblestone sections and the threat of adverse weather conditions.

The rain poured down overnight and into Wednesday making the roads slippery. The organisers had already cut two sections of cobblestones from the route - reducing the leg from 155.5km to152.5km - before the stage start due to flooding.

However, both of Froome's crashes were on bitumen, the first crash being after only 35km, and before the first section of cobblestones.

Television pictures missed the first fall but 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 the 29-year-old Briton back up to the peloton.

Although he got up and carried on Froome crashed again about an hour later.

German Tony Martin, part of a nine-man breakaway on the stage, also hit the deck.

was reduced from 155.5km to 152.5km after two of nine sectors of slippery cobblestones were cut.

Before the fifth stage, Froome was placed seventh overall at 2 seconds behind the Tour leader, Italian Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) who placed third in the 2012 Tour. Nibali won last year's Giro d'Italia and is one of the overall favourites for this year's race.

With Froome now out, Sky's leadership will now go to Porte, whose best grand tour finish was seventh in the 2010 Giro d'Italia in which he won the white jersey as best rider and wore the pink leader's jersey for three days. Porte started Wednesday's stage in 18th place but also at 2 seconds to Nibali.

With AFP