Chris Froome on Sunday got a brutal reminder of the unpredictable nature of the Tour de France when he crashed to the ground in the race’s second stage, recovering to finish with torn shorts as German Marcel Kittel powered to victory at the end of a huge sprint.
After being faster than his rivals in Saturday’s opening time trial, defending champion Froome was sitting comfortably near the front of the peloton when he was brought down as a Katusha rider lost his balance in front of him about 30km from the finish.
“I have no injuries thankfully — I’ve just lost a little bit of skin on my backside. That’s the nature of the race,” Team Sky’s Froome said.
The Briton’s teammate Geraint Thomas and last year’s runner-up, Frenchman Romain Bardet of AG2R-La Mondiale, were also involved in the pileup, but made it back to the peloton along with three-time champion Froome after a brief chase.
Thomas, who was quicker to get back on his bike and sustained no injuries, retained the overall leader’s maillot jaune at the end of the 203.5km stage from Duesseldorf in Germany to Liege in Belgium, ahead of Switzerlan’s Stefan Kueng of BMC Racing Team and Kittel of Quick-Step Floors.
“When that [a crash] happens there’s nowhere to go,” Thomas said. “There is no real damage at all, he [Froome] lost a bit of skin, but it’s all good. You’ve got to be super lucky to miss it and avoid it.”
It was also a big scare for Bardet.
“Everyone slammed on the brakes, so I was taken down by the riders in front of me. It’s never good to crash, but this was OK,” the Frenchman said. “I hope I will have a good night’s sleep. I was able to get back up on my bike very quickly and the whole team surrounded me, so I lost no time. It could have been much worse.”
Breakaway riders Taylor Phinney of Cannondale-Drapac, nearing his best after a serious leg injury in 2014, and Frenchman Yoann Offredo of Wanty-Groupe Gobert were given some breathing space as the pileup slowed down the peloton, but the sprinters’ teams organized themselves in the finale and the duo were reined in 1.1 km from the line.
Kittel had too much power for his rivals and he was half a wheel ahead of the rest in a messy finish.
“I’m super happy and super proud, as it was a special day since we started from Germany,” said Kittel, who has 10 Tour de France stage wins to his name. “We had a plan that we could really execute, but no team could. I was in a good position 500 meters from the line so I had my chance.”
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