Australian out of the Tour after crashing on hectic, chaotic stage to Roubaix

The biggest threat to another Team Sky victory in the Tour de France disappeared today when Richie Porte (BMC Racing) fell victim to the famous roads of Paris-Roubaix.

That was the opinion of Sky’s Geraint Thomas, who nevertheless expressed concern and sympathy for the Australian after a brutal day on the cobbles.

Porte raced for four seasons with Team Sky and his form for BMC has shown considerable improvement. He won the Tour de Suisse heading into the Tour de France and appeared ready to challenge for his first Grand Tour victory.

The “full gas” day also saw Sky’s leader Chris Froome and Mikel Landa (Movistar) fall, although both recovered to finish close to their rivals.

“It was just a series of sprints into every cobble sector, and hard all day from kilometre zero. It was three and a half hours full gas,” Thomas said.

“And everyone was there in the end, apart from Richie. It was sad to hear he crashed out. He’s a good mate of mine. It’s never nice to hear that.”

Porte crashed and abandoned even before he even reached the first of 15 cobbled sectors in the  stage. A medical bulletin later confirmed he dislocated his right shoulder – not as bad as in 2017 when he also crashed on stage nine, fracturing his collarbone and pelvis – but enough to rule him out of the stage, and the 2018 Tour.

“It was a stressful day for everyone, I was grateful we got through without any major issues,” Froome added. “I had a little bit of a tumble but was grateful to get back and finish with the rest of the GC guys.

“I think most of the GC guys are there. Obviously Richie was the most significant GC guy, and it’s never nice to see a mate go down like that, so thoughts go out to him today.

“I don’t know how badly injured he is, I hope it’s not serous but its always sad to hear that one of the main rivals is out of the race.”

The cobbles gave none of the 169 starters any mercy. This year they covered 21.7 kilometres of the famous French pavé used every year in the April monument – the most since 1983 when they used 28.4 kilometres.

Froome fell with team-mate Gianni Moscon with around 45 kilometres remaining, entering the Mons-en-Pévèle, sector eight of 15.

Other incidents took down Mikel Landa and Rigoberto Urán. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) punctured twice. These riders finished in the top four in the 2017 Tour, with Froome on top in Paris.

Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) continues to lead the race with Thomas in second overall at 43 seconds. Froome is eighth at 1-42.

Landa and Bardet lost seven seconds to Froome today, while Urán lost 1-28.

Sky controlled the race in the important sectors, at least until a series of incidents which included Froome’s crash.

“I was directly behind Froome. I saw Gianni go down, I just got around him, I kind of stopped, but got going quickly,” Thomas said.

“I had a bit of a gap, but that was all right. It was unlucky to lose Gianni to that crash, Kwiatkowski to another, and Luke [Rowe] punctured, all within two sectors, but that’s the way it goes.

“I’m just happy to get through unscathed. I was feeling all right. I was in a good position all the time, so yeah, it was a pretty good day.”

Froome, wiping the dust from his sweaty face, looked ahead to a rest day and then more favourable territory in the Alps.

“I think it’s a good position to be in. I’m really happy,” he said.

“We’ve done cobbles in the Tour before, so this is not a first for us. Thankfully we’ve got a recovery day tomorrow and we’ll definitely soak that up and make the best of it.

“I’m relieved to get the stage behind us and I’m really looking forward to getting into the mountains now, where the real race will start. I hope to come into the mountains swinging.”