Lars Boom (Belkin) won his first Tour de France stage on Wednesday after Dutchman soloed his way to victory on a dramatic day in northern France.
Boom, who won the 2011 edition of the Tour of Britain, won the 152.5-kilometre run from Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut in three hours 18 minutes 35 seconds, but it was what happened behind him that will make the headlines.
Following his crash during Tuesday’s first stage on French soil when he picked up some nasty road rash and injured his left wrist, Team Sky’s Chris Froome started the day feeling fragile. The defending was later forced to abandon after crashing twice towards the start of a treacherous, slippery stage featuring seven sections of cobbles.
“It’s tragic for Chris, for him to not be able to defend his title and have to leave the race in that way must be his worst nightmare, it would have been mine,” said Greg LeMond later. “To come into the race in good form with the potential to win and then to lose it like that is tragic, for him and for the whole team who have been focusing on this race all season.
“It now really opens the race up to Contador and Nibali, Richie Porte will now take on the main responsibility for Team Sky. There is a lot of racing left and the current top 10 will change a great deal, it will take a while yet for things to settle down.”
With Froome out of the race Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) was installed as the bookmakers’ favourite to win the 101st edition of the race which concludes in paris on July 27. However, after the Spaniard lost contact with Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) the Italian and his team-mates made their way to the front of the race before they turned the screw on Contador.
Supported by Jakob Fuglsang and Lieuwe Westra, the 2013 Giro d’Italia champion powered onwards to increase his lead over Contador.
“Well, we lost about two-and-a-half minutes to a very strong riding Nibali but we’re still confident,” Tinkoff-Saxo directeur sportif Steven De Jongh said afterwards. “Alberto lost touch with the back wheel of Vincenzo and we simply couldn’t close the gap. Fortunately, Alberto didn’t crash at any point and he didn’t have any punctures and not having any crashes is very important concerning the rest of the race.
“We’re five days into the race. Alberto is in peak shape and better than he was in Dauphine and we’re going to do some hard mountain stages. So, we’re still absolutely confident but aware that there’s some hard work to be done in order to make it back to the top of the rankings.”