ARENBERG, France — 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 8 total miles of joint-jangling cobblestones.
He was the best-known of several big-name riders who crashed 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.
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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.
Froome didn’t speak to reporters after his second spill near the halfway mark.
Overall leader Vincenzo Nibali of Italy wasted little time in speeding ahead.
Nibali, too, was one of several high-profile riders who crashed, recovered and excelled on the 152.5-kilometer (95-mile) route. The Italian finished third and extended his lead. Lars Boom of the Netherlands was the stage winner.