ARENBERG, France (AP) ― An injured wrist was just too much for Tour de France champion Chris Froome, in one of the most memorable and crash-marred stages in recent race history.
The Kenyan-born Briton ended his repeat bid Wednesday, dropping out of cycling’s big event and dropping a bombshell on his competitors after crashing twice in a rain-, mud-, sweat- and blood-soaked fifth stage for the pack through nerve-wracking cobblestones along France’s border with Belgium.
The 29-year-old Team Sky leader, already nursing pain in his left wrist a day earlier, first scuffed up his right hip, tearing his uniform, then scraped his face. Both falls happened even before he got to the start of 13 total kilometers over joint-jangling cobblestones.
He was the best-known of several big-name riders who crashed on Wednesday. They found out months ago, when the course was announced, what they would face on the roads from Ypres, Belgium to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut. It’s the same big bumps known to racers of the celebrated Paris-Roubaix one-day race.
What they couldn’t foresee was the rain, which slickened roads and unsettled many rider nerves ― and psychology was crucial to surviving the stage. Before Froome crashed, Sky sporting director Nicolas Portal said it best: “His wrist hurts a bit, but it’ll be a question of mental as well today,” according to the Tour’s website.
Before the stage, Froome had said that the biggest concern about the cobblestones was not riding over them, but the nervousness of the peloton as riders jockey to get up front, which is considered the safest place to be.
Froome didn’t speak to reporters after his second spill on the day at around the halfway mark. Wincing and limping, he shook his head at a Team Sky staffer, walked over to a team car, and climbed in. The team said later that he was already on his way home.
On Twitter, he wrote that he was “devastated” to withdraw: “Injured wrist and tough conditions made controlling my bike near to impossible.”