One of the race’s top favourites, Alberto Contador, has quit the Tour de France approximately 80 kilometres from the end of the stage due to a crash and resulting injury.
The Tinkoff Saxo rider went down hard between the first category climbs of the Petit Ballon and the Col du Platzerwasel and had to wait for a new bike. He looked sore and had rips to his clothing plus mud on the back of his jersey. Blood was running down from his right knee, which was bandaged soon afterwards by Tour medical staff.
Contador remounted and together with his team-mates, tried to chase back on. However the Astana team were riding on the front and with the injured Spaniard unable to ride at anything like his normal speed, the writing was on the wall.
After several kilometres of chasing, Contador told team-mate Michael Rogers he was stopping, extended his left hand to tap the Australian on the hip, then called up the team car containing Bjarne Riis. He wheeled to a halt, dismounted and got into the car.
A small cluster of photographers crowded around the car to take photographs of the 2007 and 2009 Tour winner in the passenger seat, the bike was placed on the roof and then the vehicle drove off. With it, Contador’s Tour ended.
The rider had been sitting ninth overall before the start of the stage, 4 minutes and 8 seconds behind the new leader Tony Gallopin (Lotto Belisol) and 2 minutes 34 seconds behind chief rival Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). However despite that time gap, he was still regarded as one of the top favourites for the overall victory, particularly as he was the only rider able to gap Nibali two days ago.
He was expected to make a move on today’s final climb of La Planche des Belles Filles but instead will turn his thoughts towards receiving treatment for his injuries and setting new goals.
It is possible that he could ride the Vuelta a España; if so, a clash with last year’s Tour winner Chris Froome could be on the cards.
The Briton was forced to withdraw from the race on stage five due to the effects of a fall he had one day earlier, plus two further tumbles. Medical scans later revealed that he had fractures to his left wrist and right hand.
It remains to be seen if Contador has suffered serious injury, but the fall today’s stage certainly caused enough short-term damage to bring his race to an end.
His withdrawal means that no former race winner remains in the peloton. Aside from Froome, the only other past champion who started in Leeds was Andy Schleck (Trek Factory Racing). He was forced to abandon after a heavy crash on stage three.