Rigoberto Uran of Cannondale has won a hugely dramatic Stage 9 of the Tour de France in Chambery on a day when second-placed Geraint Thomas of Team Sky and one of the big favourites for the overall win, BMC Racing’s Richie Porte, both crashed out.
The Colombian was awarded the win over Team Sunweb’s Warren Barguil after the race jury examined the photo finish following a sprint in which Uran had the handicap of being stuck in his biggest gear due to a mechanical issue in the final kilometres of the 181.5-kilometre stage from Nantua.
As a result, he had done well to contest the finish let alone contest it with a group that also included race leader and defending champion Chris Froome of Team Sky, the Astana pair of Fabio Aru and Jakob Fuglsang, plus Romain Bardet of AG2R-La Mondiale.
Long identified as one of the key days of this year’s race, the stage through the Jura mountains, which had there Hors-Categorie climbs, was marred by a number of crashes, with Thomas and Porte the two highest profile victims. Other riders out include LottoNL-Jumbo’s Robert Gesink.
Thomas’s race came to an end when he crashed on a corner while descending the Col de la Biche, with several riders in the break crashing at the same point shortly beforehand.
The Welsh rider, who took the overall lead after last week's opening time trial in Dusseldorf, had been second overall at the start of the stage, 12 seconds behind team leader Chris Froome.
It’s the second time Thomas has been forced to abandon a Grand Tour this year after his early exit from the Giro d'Italia in May.
Porte crashed on the descent from the Mont du Chat, the last of the day’s big climbs, as he slid off the inside of corner and was violently flung across the road, with Quick Step Floors rider Dan Martin unable to avoid him.
Martin remounted but was involved in another crash shortly afterwards, while Porte, widely regarded as the biggest threat to Froome’s title defence, received treatment for almost half an hour at the roadside before being taken away in an ambulance.
Martin lost more than a minute, as did Movistar’s Nairo Quintana, three times a runner-up in the race, while former winner Alberto Contador of Trek Segafredo seems to be out of contention after losing over four minutes.
Astana’s Fabio Aru moves to second overall and was involved in one of the day’s main talking points when he attacked Froome on the ascent of the Mont du Chat just as the race leader raised his arm to signal a mechanical problem.
Whether the timing was purely coincidental or whether Aru launched his attack in response to Froome being in trouble is unclear, but while other riders followed the Italian’s move, the refused to help him, effectively neutralising the race until the yellow jersey rejoined them.
Subsequently, TV cameras caught an exchange between Froome and Aru as they rounded a hairpin bend in which the Team Sky rider appeared to nudge his rival towards the roadside - although he insisted later that the contact had not been deliberate.
Bardet, riding on familiar roads – his AG2R-La Mondiale team is based here – attacked on the final descent and got clear.
But he was reeled in during the flatter final 10 kilometres and caught with 2 kilometres remaining.
Barguil, with Fuglsang the last survivor of the day’s break, initially appeared to have been awarded the win until the photo finish made clear that Uran had just pipped him to the line.
Overall leader Chris Froome
I wasn't aware that Fabio Aru attacked. I got to know it once the journalists told me at the finish. At the time, I was too busy looking for my team car for a bike change.
From what I understand, it looks like Richie told my rivals ‘it's not the moment to attack'. I thank Richie for having said that and the whole group to not have taken advantage of this.
When I touched Aru's arm later on, it wasn't retaliation. It wasn't on purpose.
I said yesterday the GC would be blown away today and it did. There are no longer ten guys in one minute on GC. It's been brutal.
For us, losing Geraint Thomas is a massive disappointment. Losing Richie Porte is a big blow to the race. No one wants to see a protagonist quitting like this. His crash was terrifying.
Stage winner, Rigoberto Uran
I wasn't sure if I had won or not. When I've been told I did, I've felt a lot of happiness.
It was a big occasion for me after so many things happened today like the crash of Richie Porte. Then my derailleur was out of order. I managed to save myself and contest the stage victory. It's a surprise.
I'm very happy to have won this complicated stage. It's also positive for the general classification. It's a great day for my team.
Dr Max Testa, chief medical officer at BMC Racing, on Richie Porte's injuries
Richie Porte was transferred to the Centre Hopitalier Metropole Savoie in Chambery where he was evaluated by Dr. Zerr. He underwent X-rays to determine the extent of his injuries. His condition was stable from the beginning, he was responsive and he remembered everything that happened before and after the crash," Dr. Testa explained.
X-rays confirmed a non-displaced right clavicle fracture and a non-displaced right acetabulum fracture. Richie also suffered extensive superficial abrasions involving the right side of his body. At this stage, the injuries will not require surgery. The plan is to re-evaluate Richie tomorrow morning and confirm that he is stable enough to be transferred home.
Normally, a fractured clavicle and pelvis would require four to six weeks' recovery, providing there are no complications. If everything goes to plan, Richie could be back on the bike at the beginning of August and slowly build his fitness up from there.
Based on Richie's recovery, we will re-evaluate his program for the rest of the season in consultation with BMC Racing Team management.
Team Sky's Geraint Thomas
Everyone was nervous, everyone wanted to be at the front and a few people were battling to get between myself, Froomey and the rest of the boys. I let Majka in and then he came down right in front of me on a straight bit of road. I had nowhere to go, went over the top of him, and landed on my collarbone.
Team doctor [Juan Mercadel] said he thought it was broken but I got back on the bike and carried on down the descent, but when I got on the flat I knew something was wrong. Then the race doctor said exactly the same so I ended up stopping then, went for a scan, and it’s broken.
I’m just thinking of the devastation of leaving the Tour and another Grand Tour. I crashed at the Giro on stage nine, and it’s stage nine again here. I was lying second overall on both days as well. It’s just so disappointing.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.