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Porte out but Froome battles on after Tour crashes

 

By Ian Parker

Chris Froome suffered a nasty-looking crash on stage nine of the Tour de France as the treacherous cobbles en route to Roubaix took their toll, with rival Richie Porte abandoning his campaign after suffering a fall of his own.

But while defending champion Froome was one of many to come unstuck on the cobbles, Porte's accident occurred just seven kilometres into the race, more than 35km before the peloton hit the first section of cobblestones.

Porte is the first main general classification contender to withdraw from this year's Tour, and as several riders involved in the crash got back to their feet, Porte was seen to remain on the ground holding his collarbone.

The Australian won the Tour de Suisse in the build-up to the Tour to suggest he was in perfect form but the 33-year-old, a renowned one-week stage racer, has struggled to hold it all together over three weeks in a Grand Tour.

The former Team Sky rider crashed out of last year's Tour on stage nine as well, having seen previous tilts at the 2015 Giro d'Italia and the 2016 Tour ruined by mechanical issues and illnesses.

The BMC rider was among the favourites for this year's event alongside former teammate Froome, and before the day's action began in Arras he was sitting 10th in the standings, 57 seconds behind yellow jersey holder Greg van Avermaet of Belgium.

Froome meanwhile appeared to escape uninjured, althought his lip appeared cut, and remounted to continue on the stage.

It was a first career Tour stage win for Trek-Segafredo's Degenkolb, with the German able to hold off Porte's team-mate Van Avermaet and Quick-Step Floors' Yves Lampaert in a sprint to the line.

The trio had broken clear with a little under 20km to go and were left to contest the stage between themselves.

Although Van Avermaet retains yellow for now, it was in truth a dismal day for BMC. While Porte headed for hospital, their likely Plan B Tejay Van Garderen - who started the day just nine seconds off yellow - got himself caught up in crashes and conceded more than five minutes to effectively rule himself out of contention.

The riders now face a long transfer to Annecy, but have Monday's rest day before the race moves into the Alps and the true battle for yellow emerges, albeit without one of its biggest likely protagonists in Porte.

Belfast Telegraph

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