When race leader Tony Martin abandons with a broken collarbone from one crash, and the Tour itself briefly halts on stage three to allow ambulances to get through to the injured from another, it would be easy to argue that this past week’s multiple pile-ups in the Tour are a new, unpleasant feature of the race.
Regrettably, that’s not the case. Think back to last year, and throughout the first two stages of the Tour in Yorkshire, riders complained about spectators leaning out too far to take pictures and causing collisions. And who could forget Mark Cavendish’s dramatic crash within sight of the finish at Harrogate?
By the end of the first week, we had lost three former Tour de France winners. Chris Froome and Alberto Contador quit after fracturing their hand and tibia respectively, and before them, the 2010 champion Andy Schleck made a barely noticed exit after smashing his knee on the outskirts of London on stage three.
There is something of a trend here. In recent years, favourites have got more and more nervous about getting entangled in crashes and opt – or are ordered – to race as close to the front of the pack as possible, which is in theory the safest part of the peloton.
The rush to get to the front, however, is a two-edged sword. The more riders there are attempting to squeeze into the width of a two-lane road at the front, the more likely it is that accidents will happen. For now first-week crashes look set to stay – with top names almost always among the victims.
Crashes and crushed hopes
A week of pile-ups
The first week has been punctuated by major crashes, almost all of them painful and some with long-term consequences for those involved. The major ones were:
The stage witnessed one of the worst crashes in the race’s history after William Bonnet clipped the rider in front of him at speeds of up to 50mph, causing a serious pile-up that unseated 20 riders. The race was suspended in the aftermath as six cyclists were forced to withdraw from the tour.
* William Bonnet (French, FDJ.fr) withdrew with a fractured cervical vertebra in his neck.
* Fabian Cancellara (Swiss, Trek) Two fractured vertebrae in his spine.
* Simon Gerrans (Australian, Orica GreenEdge) Broken wrist.
* Tom Dumoulin (Dutch, Giant-Alpecin) Broken shoulder.
* Dmitry Kozontchuk (Russian, Team Katusha) Fractured shoulderblade and broken collarbone.
* Daryl Impey (South African, Orica GreenEdge) Fractured collarbone.
* Laurens ten Dam (Dutch, Team LottoNL-Jumbo) Dislocated his shoulder but continued after it was “popped back in”.
With rainy conditions, the fifth stage was ridden with numerous crashes, though none were quite as severe as the one witnessed two days earlier. Bauer pulled out after twice falling from his bike.
* Jack Bauer (New Zealander, Takaka) Broken hip.
* Nacer Bouhanni (French, Cofidis) Crashed after 12km of the stage.
After surviving day three and five, Tony Martin was forced out of the tour with a broken collarbone after crashing within the closing kilometre of stage six. Despite finishing the stage, Martin later withdrew from the race. Cyclists Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana were also unseated but continue to race as the tour completed a troubled week.
* Tony Martin (German, Etixx-Quick Step) Broken collarbone
* Michael Albasini (Swiss, Orica-GreenEdge) Fractured his upper left-arm.
*Greg Henderson (New Zealander, Lotto-Soudal) withdrew four days after breaking ribs on third stage.
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