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Contador crashes out of Tour de France

Former two-time winner Alberto Contador broke down in tears as he quit the Tour de France on Monday after crashing badly on the tough 10th stage and injuring his knee.

The Spaniard's abandonment was the second major loss to the 101st edition of the Grand Boucle following reigning champion Chris Froome's withdrawal through injury on Wednesday.

The departure of the two pre-race favourites leaves Italian Vincenzo Nibali as the man to beat on the Tour.

The Astana team leader started Monday's 161km mountainous stage from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles second overall at 1min 34sec behind yellow jersey wearer Tony Gallopin of France.

Contador, who began the day ninth overall at 4:08, crashed around the 65km mark on a pass between the Petit Ballon climb and the Col du Platzerwasel, with just under 100km still to ride.

The 31-year-old suffered a nasty gash to his right knee and had blood pouring down his leg as he received lengthy treatment by the side of the road.

His knee was patched up by the race doctor and he changed bikes and a shoe before continuing the race.

He had lost around four minutes on the peloton by this time, after which Astana took over pace-setting at the front.

Despite five of Contador's Tinkoff-Saxo teammates dropping back to help pace him up the Col du Platzerwasel, he started losing more time.

Around 15km later and about halfway through the stage, Contador shared a hug with chief lieutenant, Australian Michael Rogers, before stopping by the side of the road and climbing into a team car.

Visibly in pain, he was in floods of tears.

Straight after news of his abandonment filtered through to the peloton, Astana eased up and the escape group in front started to increase their lead that had been coming down.

On Wednesday Briton Froome crashed twice before climbing off his bike and quitting the Tour.

The 29-year-old Team Sky leader had already injured his wrist the previous day in a crash and an MRI scan on Thursday showed he had fractures to his left wrist and right hand.

Froome's super-domestique, Australian Richie Porte, took over the Sky leadership from Thursday and, fifth overall and 1:58 behind Nibali, appears to be the Italian's major competition.

Portugal's Tiago Machado, who started the day third overall, was another to crash on the descent of the Petit Ballon, although he had rejoined the peloton by the time it crested the Col du Platzerwasel with 90km left.

Organizers had initially, and erroneously, announced that he had abandoned the race.

Up front an initial 13-man breakaway was being led by polka-dot jersey wearer Tony Martin, who won Sunday's ninth stage following a 150km escape.

Martin's pressure gradually reduced the size of the group to nine riders, including Martin's OPQS teammate Michal Kwiatkowski, who is leading the white jersey young rider's competition.

At sixth overall and 4:00 behind Gallopin, he was eyeing the yellow jersey.

The lead group had a 4:30 lead over the peloton, including Gallopin, with around 60km left.

The 10th stage has a total of seven categorized climbs, including four first categories, and finishes with a brutal 5.9km ascent with an average gradient of 8.5 percent.

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SPORT

Inaugural Women’s Tour de France to start at Eiffel Tower

The route for the inaugural women's Tour de France was unveiled on Thursday with eight stages, embarking from the Eiffel Tower on July 24th next year.

French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race.
French cyclist Marion Rousse delivers a speech next to Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme during the presentation of the first edition of the Women's Tour de France cycling race. Photo: Anne-Christine POUJOULAT / AFP.

The first complete edition of the women’s version of cycling’s iconic race starts on the day the 109th edition of the men’s Tour ends.

After a route that winds through northern France, the race culminates in the Planche des Belles Filles climb in the Vosges mountains.

Danish cyclist Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig said she was over the moon to be taking part.

“I want it to be July now so we can get stared,” she said actually jumping up and down.

“The Tour de France is a reference and when you say you are a cyclist people ask about that. Now I can say I race the Tour de France,” she said after the presentation.

MAP: Details of 2022 Tour de France (and Denmark) revealed

Race director Marion Rousse, a former French cycling champion and now a TV commentator, told AFP it would be a varied course that would maintain suspense over the eight days.

“It is coherent in a sporting sense, and we wanted to start from Paris,” she said of the 1,029km run.

“With only eight stages we couldn’t go down to the Alps or the Pyrenees, the transfers would be too long.

“The stages obviously are shorter for the women than for the men’s races. The men can go 225 kilometres. For the women the longest race on our roster is 175km and we even needed special dispensation for that,” she said. “But it’s a course I love.”

Christian Prudhomme, the president of the Tour de France organisers, was equally enthusiastic.

“The fact it sets off from Paris the day the men’s race ends gives the new race a boost because it sets the media up to follow it more easily.

“It also means that with the Tour de France starting on July 1st and the women’s race ending on the 31st, there will be cycling on television every day of July.”

The men’s race is broadcast in around 190 countries.

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