It was a bittersweet day for Etixx-QuickStep on stage six of the 2015 Tour de France on Wednesday, with Zdenek Stybar winning the stage just after race leader Tony Martin crashed heavily inside the final kilometre.
Martin appeared to touch wheels with another rider and fall first while near the front of the peloton, taking down several other riders including defending champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana). Martin got back up and remounted his bike, but was pushed to the finish by team mates and visibly clutching his left shoulder. An X-ray later confirmed he had fractured his collarbone.
With much of the peloton held up the crash, Stybar rode free up the final hill to take a solo victory ahead of the bunch, brought in by Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) in second and Bryan Coquard (Europcar) in third. It's Stybar's first appearance at the Tour.
Martin will be awarded the same time as the peloton as he fell within the final three kilometres - but there is now a question mark over the extent of his injuries. The German leads Chris Froome (Sky) overall by 12 seconds, with American Tejay van Garderen (BMC) in third at 25 seconds.
If Martin is unable to continue due to his injury, Froome will start stage seven in the race lead.
>>> Tony Martin’s Tour de France in jeopardy after crash on stage six finale
Trio in the break
Perrig Quémeneur (Europcar), Kenneth Van Bilsen (Cofidis) and Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka) were out in front of the peloton for most of the day, where it appeared that the bunch was content to take it relatively easy under the coastal sunshine after a tough opening five days.
Critérium du Dauphiné King of the Mountains Teklehaimanot signalled his intent to chase the same jersey in the Tour by claiming all three of the day's category four climbs to take the KoM lead from Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha): Côte de Dieppe, Côte de Pourville-sur-Mer and Côte du Tilleul.
Just after the intermediate sprint point in Saint-Léonard, won by Quémeneur in the break and John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin) in the bunch, Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) decided that he would try and bridge over to the lead trio. However, his solo move was short-lived and he was absorbed by the bunch after a handful of kilometres.
When the peloton got within half a minute of the break and the race hit 11km to go, Van Bilsen launched a last-ditch move as Quémeneur and Teklehaimanot sat up. Van Bilsen put up a fight but was caught with three kilometres to go.
As the bunch hit the final hill inside the last two kilometres, the pace slowed considerably as riders jostled for position. Martin appeared to move slightly to his right, making contact with another rider and falling off. With so many riders around and behind him, it was inevitable that Martin would also cause others to fall.
Sagan's second place on the stage moves him just three points away from the green jersey, with double stage winner André Greipel on 161 points to Sagan's 158.
Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge) was the day's only non-starter - the third member of the Australian outfit to withdrawn from the race due to injury. The team's Michael Matthews continues, but is still nursing injuries from stage five - he is the current lanterne rouge, last-placed rider overall.
The 2015 Tour de France continues its westward journey on stage seven in Normandy, another relatively flat route from Livarot to Fougères. It should be a day for the sprinters before Saturday's uphill kick finale on Mur-de-Bretagne and Sunday's team time trial.
>>> Tour de France 2015 stage seven full preview
Tour de France 2015, stage six: Abbeville to Le Havre, 191.5km
1. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx-QuickStep in 4-53-46
2. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo at 2 secs
3. Bryan Coquard (Fra) Europcar
4. John Degenkolb (Ger) Giant-Alpecin
5. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing
6. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal
7. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) MTN-Qhubeka
8. Davide Cimolai (Ita) Lampre-Merida
9. Julien Simon (Fra) Cofidis
10. Gorka Izagirre (Spa) Movistar all same time
Overall classification after stage six
1. Tony Martin (Ger) Etixx-QuickStep in 22-13-14
2. Chris Froome (GBr) Team Sky at 12 secs
3. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing at 25 secs
4. Peter Sagan (Svk) Tinkoff-Saxo at 27 secs
5. Tony Gallopin (Fra) Lotto-Soudal at 38 secs
6. Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing at 40 secs
7. Rigoberto Uran (Col) Etixx-QuickStep at 46 secs
8. Alberto Contador (Spa) Tinkoff-Saxo at 48 secs
9. Zdenek Stybar (Cze) Etixx-QuickStep at 1-04
10. Geraint Thomas (GBr) Team Sky at 1-15
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