Chris Froome survived a near miss at the Tour de France but race leader Tony Martin suffered a fractured collarbone which ended his race.
Froome began the day in second place overall, 12 seconds behind Martin, who crashed 900 metres from the finish of the 191.5-kilometre sixth stage from Abbeville to Le Havre, won by his Etixx-QuickStep team-mate Zdenek Stybar.
Martin’s exit makes him the second leader to abandon this year’s race while in the maillot jaune, after Fabian Cancellara crashed on stage three. It also means Team Sky’s Froome is the defacto leader, even if he does not wear the yellow jersey on today’s seventh stage.
Froome had a squabble with defending champion Vincenzo Nibali after the stage, with the Italian initially believing that Froome had caused the crash which also forced Nibali to the floor.
The Briton came out of his pedals and almost catapulted off his bike when Martin clipped a wheel and tumbled into a Giant-Alpecin rider and then Nibali.
Nibali fell into Froome, but the 2013 winner stayed upright and safe. Afterwards Froome boarded the bus of Nibali’s Astana team to clear the air. Froome wrote on Twitter, alongside a video of the incident: “There was some confusion as to who caused the crash, wanted to clear that up with @AstanaTeam @vincenzonibali (definitely wasn’t me!).”
The 3km rule meant those involved in or held up by the crash – including Nairo Quintana (Movistar), another of the race favourites – did not lose time and the top of the general classification remained unchanged.
Nibali had thought Froome was culpable before their impromptu meeting. The Italian said: “It seemed that Froome sent me down. I was very upset with him, but then, watching the video...
“He also came on the bus, and I said sorry to him. I gave my apologies, it seemed more that it was Tony Martin, I moved right, I found Froome, thought it was his fault. Did we clear it all up? Yeah! We are not footballers, we are cyclists.”
Martin went to hospital for X-rays and later confirmed the fracture. The German said: “I was extremely unlucky. I can’t really remember what happened. I touched the wheel of the rider ahead of me. It’s the Tour, luck and bad luck are very close together. It’s often the way accidents happen.”
Martin’s injury has implications for team-mate Mark Cavendish. The Manxman has twice been beaten in bunch sprints in this year’s Tour.
Martin is a key component of the lead-out for Cavendish, who will now be without him for today’s 190.5km stage from Livarot to Fougeres, which is anticipated to end in a sprint.