Tour de France 2014: 'Destroyed' Alberto Contador crashes out of the Tour to follow Chris Froome in abandoning his campaign - and leaving the door open for Vincenzo Nibali

Contador crashes on stage 10, and is forced to abandon his camapign

The battle for the Tour de France took another dramatic turn yesterday when the second of the two pre-race favourites, Alberto Contador, fell and was forced to quit.

The Spaniard, who was said afterwards to be “mentally destroyed” at having to abandon the race, joins Britain’s Chris Froome on the casualty list and leaves Vincenzo Nibali in pole position for the title. The Italian reclaimed the overall lead yesterday with a superb solo triumph forged with an attack 2.5km from the line. Sky’s Richie Porte rode strongly to move into second place overall, but Contador’s sudden exit overshadowed Nibali’s return to the yellow jersey.

The first TV images of double Tour de France winner Contador’s crash showed the Spaniard hunched over slightly and standing on the side of the road on a rain-soaked descent 95km from the finish. Blood was seeping from a deep cut on his right knee, the back of his jersey was ripped open, his Tinkoff-Saxo team car was drawn up beside him and mechanics and team staff were already trying to tend his injuries.

Contador was soon picked up by the Team Tinkoff-Saxo car, ending his 2014 Tour de France campaign Contador was soon picked up by the Team Tinkoff-Saxo car, ending his 2014 Tour de France campaign

Contador initially seemed to take things calmly, asking for a replacement left shoe which he sat down to change, allowing a bandage to be wrapped around his knee, and then insisting he was well enough to race on.

Almost the entire Tinkoff Saxo team, meanwhile, dropped back to try and assist their suffering leader, with other dropped riders glancing at Contador in disbelief at his lowly position as the Spaniard’s squad drove as hard as possible to try and pull him back into contention.

However, the pursuit proved fruitless, with Contador clearly in pain, dropping back again towards his team car and receiving a comforting arm round his shoulder from a team-mate as they eased down the mist-enshrouded descent of the next climb, the Platzerweisen.

With steadily rising pain from multiple injuries, the Spaniard eased over to the side of the road, dismounted and then – in images echoing Froome’s abandon – clambered gingerly inside his director’s team car.

Video: Travelling in a Tour de France team car

On last Wednesday’s perilous stage over the cobbles, Contador had lost nearly three minutes to leader Nibali when mud jammed his gearing. But on Saturday’s first short, sharp ascent, he had been the strongest of the overall favourites, gaining time on Nibali. Yesterday, on a stage when he was expected to make further gains, the 31-year-old  was forced to quit, with an  X-ray later revealing a broken tibia. That he could continue in such circumstances after the crash for another 17km is a sign of his iron determination, but it was clearly impossible for him to ride on.

“It’s not a bad fracture but he needs surgery,” Tinkoff boss Bjarne Riis said later. “He’s in a lot of pain and is getting stitches. Mentally he’s destroyed, of course. He was in the shape of his life... This was his Tour. He was in super good condition, never better. It’s a big, big pity.”

Froome sent a message of support to his top rival via Twitter, saying: “Big loss for the TDF today. Recover well @albertocontador.”

He then added: “I hope to see you at the Vuelta”, in what appears to be confirmation that the Briton will be riding in cycling’s third Grand Tour in Spain this September.

Froome’s and Contador’s combined absence means there is no former winner in the race, but Italy’s Nibali, who won both the stage and returned to the lead, appears determined to ensure there will be no power vacuum.

Nibali shot away from a tiny front group of favourites some 2.5km from the line on the seventh and final climb of the day, the ultra-steep Planche des Belles Filles. Catching and quickly dropping earlier attacker Joaquim Rodriguez of Spain, the Italian crossed the line with a 15-second advantage over his closest pursuer, Thibaut Pinot of France. Overall Nibali’s increased advantage of 2 min, 23 sec is a very solid one, although with so much racing left, it is insufficient to say that the Tour is definitively in his grasp.

However, it was two years ago on the Planche des Belles Filles that Sir Dave Brailsford said Sky had begun to believe it was possible for Sir Bradley Wiggins – after taking the lead there – to win outright. And this time round it could well be the same for the 29-year-old Sicilian.

Sky’s Porte led the string of half a dozen counter-attackers and rode strongly to move into second, but the Australian said afterwards that the others had shadowed him too closely. “I felt good today but it’s not great to be towing everybody to the line, he said. “[But] if Vincenzo goes I guess you have to respond. It’s a shame to lose Alberto. I hope he’s OK. It’s definitely going to change the dynamics of the race.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Teeth should be brushed twice a day to prevent tooth decay
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
footballChelsea 6 Maribor 0: Blues warm up for Premier League showdown with stroll in Champions League - but Mourinho is short of strikers
Those who were encouraged to walk in a happy manner remembered less negative words
Arts and Entertainment
Princess Olga in 'You Can't Get the Staff'
tvReview: The anachronistic aristocrats, it seemed, were just happy to have some attention
Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London