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TOUR DE FRANCE 2014

Tour de France: Froome out of Tour after crash

Defending champion Chris Froome pulled out of the 2014 Tour de France on Wednesday after suffering two falls during stage five of the race. Froome was forced out around 66km from the end as the wet weather caused havoc for riders.

Tour de France: Froome out of Tour after crash
Chris Froome pictured here after falling from his bike. His shorts are split and he has a cut on his right leg. Froome later quit the tour. Photo: Eurosport

LATEST: Chris Froome is out of the 2014 Tour de France

Defending champion Chris Froome crashed out of the Tour de France on Wednesday after falling twice on a wet and treacherous stage five.

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

That signalled the end of his attempt to retain the yellow jersey he won in Paris last year.

Dutch rider Lars Boom won the brutal fifth stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday as Vincenzo Nibali of Italy strengthened his grip on the race leader's yellow jersey, but the major news of the day was the abandonment of Froome.

The last time a reigning champion had been forced to abandon the Tour was in 1980 when Frenchman Bernard Hinault quit due to a knee injury, although that wasn't from a crash.

In 1983, yellow jersey wearer Pascal Simon was forced out several days after a crash and he would never win the Grand Boucle.

It topped off a nightmare two days for the Kenyan-born Briton who also came off his bike on Tuesday's fourth stage.

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.

But the second time he went down, along with a teammate, Froome looked visibly distressed.

He stood by the side of the road holding his right arm across his body and making no attempt to get up and ride on.

(Photo: Eurosport)

When he started shaking his head, it was clear his race was over and he was soon bundled into the safety of a team car.

Incredibly, on a stage where the seven cobbled sections totalling 13km had been the major concern for riders, Froome crashed out before they even reached the first.

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.

This is from the BBC live blog:

"It's like the Tour de France has gone off-road. The conditions are appalling, the riders covered in mud as they splash through puddles or slip into the grass verges."

Cycling fans on Twitter immediately began questioning Team Sky's decision not to pick former winner Bradley Wiggins as back-up for Froome.

Previous update: Defending champion Chris Froome's nightmare start to the Tour de France continued as he fell again on Wednesday.

He was one of numerous riders to crash on the 152.km stage from Ypres, Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, which includes seven cobbled sections totalling 13km.
 
Television pictures missed the fall itself 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.
 
Froome was riding with a splint on the left wrist he injured in a crash on Tuesday.
 
Wednesday's fifth stage began in driving rain.
 
Two of the nine anticipated cobbled sections had to be removed because they were deemed too dangerous.
 
But Froome's crash happened 40 minutes into the stage on a straight bit of normal tarmac, a long distance before the peloton was due to hit the cobbles.
 
The treacherous conditions were causing havoc as numerous riders hit the deck.
 
One such was sprint king and three-stage winner Marcel Kittel 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 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.
 
We'll have the results of stage 5 as soon as the winner crosses the line
 

STAGE 5 PREVIEW: Organisers have cut two of the nine cobbled sections on Wednesday's Tour de France fifth stage due to safety concerns after heavy rain.

The run from Ypres, Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut was meant to include nine cobbled sections totalling 15.4km.

But there will now be two less and 2.4km fewer to ride over the bumpy roads.

"This morning with Jean-Francois Pescheux (the Paris-Roubaix director) we did the final reconnaissance," said Tour director Thierry Gouvenou.

"We found the route to be slippery, humid, but not very muddy. Even so, we decided to cut two sectors: Mons-en-Pevele, which is very difficult, very bumpy, and the one which carries Marc Madiot's name (at Beuvry-la-Foret) because it's under tress and there are a huge number of leaves which have made it very slippery.

"It's a question of common sense, we didn't want to throw the Tour de France peloton into these conditions, with the rain."

Heavy rain during the night, which continued into Wednesday morning and early afternoon, had increased the danger associated with riding over cobbles.

Teams were informed about the change, which has reduced the total distance by 3km to 152.5km but still leaves seven sections and 13.4km of cobbles, 90 minutes before the start of the stage.

While organisers may have removed the most dangerous sections, it will be scant relief for riders already nervous about the stage.

Race leader Vincenzo Nibali spoke of his concerns following Tuesday's stage finish in Lille.

"(Wednesday) it's predicted to rain. We hope it won't because this can complicate everything," he said.

Team Sky's Geraint Thomas also spoke of his worst fears for Wednesday's tricky stage, a tribute to the epic one-day Classic Paris-Roubaix.

"It's going to be a nightmare, no-one's looking forward to it, especially if it rains," said Thomas.

"It's just going to be like riding on ice, especially with some of the corners on the cobbles. It will be last man standing I think."

Dutchman Lars Boom expects there to be a shake up in the overall standings at the end of the day.

"We can expect a true show," said the Belkin rider.

"It will be just as nervous as the first three days in Great Britain. The main thing is to hold a good position.

"The several cobblestone sections are far apart from each other, too bad if you ask me, but I think there will still be some time differences at the finish."

The last time the Tour passed through Paris-Roubaix's most notorious territory in 2010 it claimed several victims.

Here's a video preview of Wednesday's stage five from Global Cycling Network.

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TOUR DE FRANCE 2014

Tour de France: Italian Nibali tightens grip

Italian Vincenzo Nibali won stage 18 of the Tour de France on Thursday to put him within touching distance of winning the overall race. By winning his fourth stage Nibali extended his lead over Frenchman Thibaut Pinot to more than seven minutes.

Tour de France: Italian Nibali tightens grip
Italian Vincenzo Nibali wins stage 18 to tighten grip on Tour de France title. Photo: AFP

Vincenzo Nibali confirmed his supremacy at the Tour de France with his fourth stage victory on Thursday.

The 29-year-old Italian won the 18th stage from Pau to the top of the Hautacam climb after 144.5km of mountainous terrain in the Pyrenees.

In doing so the Astana rider increased his overall lead to 7min 10sec ahead of Frenchman Thibaut Pinot, who was second on the stage at 1:10.

Pole Rafal Majka, the winner of two mountain stages, was third at 1:12 to secure victory in the King of the Mountains competition

Jean-Christophe Peraud made it two Frenchmen on the podium as he came home fourth at 1:15.

The 37-year-old is just 13sec behind Pinot and 2sec ahead of Alejandro Valverde, who had started the day second.

It means three riders are separated by just 15sec in the battle for second place, which should be decided on Saturday in the 54km time trial.

Although Pinot, 24, is second, he is widely regarded as the weakest of the three against the clock.

American Tejay Van Garderen came home fifth in the same time as Peraud to boost his chances of finishing in the top five overall.

He is sixth and trails 23-year-old Frenchman Romain Bardet by just over two minutes but the American is a far better timetriallist.

Yet Thursday's stage was all about Nibali's total domination as once again he gave a demonstration in the mountains

When he made his attack with 10km of climbing ahead he ate into loan leader  Mikel Nieve's advantage in no time and then simply rode away, gradually and steadily increasing the gap with every kilometre.

Preview: Thursday's unforgiving 144.5km stage 18 includes the behemoths of the Tourmalet and Hautacam mountains to climb, 

"Thursday will be a very hard day, especially after the last two days," said Spanish rider Alejandro Valverde the 34-year-old Movistar leader.

Meanwhile race leader Vincenzo Nibali even admitted he was riding within himself.

"My condition is very good and I'm ready to push right to the end but when I get to the end of a stage I'm not giving everything because I don't have to, and I've also had an eye on the next stage," said Nibali.

However, he admitted it would have been different had the best riders been there.

Reigning champion Chris Froome crashed out on the fifth stage with a broken hand and wrist while two-time former winner Alberto Contador broke his shinbone in a fall on the 10th stage on Bastille Day.

"If Chris Froome or Alberto were riding I would need to push much more but then I would also have to manage the race differently and play more of a waiting game," added the Astana team leader.

"When they attack they are more explosive so I would have to be careful.

"I have a lot of respect for these riders."

Here's a video preview of the stage from Global Cycling Network.

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