LA PLANCHE DES BELLES FILLES, France (AFP) — Alberto Contador broke down in tears as he quit the Tour de France on Monday after breaking his leg in a bad crash on the tough 10th stage.
The Tinkoff-Saxo captain’s abandonment was the second major loss to the 101st edition of the Grand Boucle following the withdrawal due to injury by reigning champion Chris Froome (Sky) on Wednesday.
“Alberto has a broken tibia. It’s not a bad fracture but he needs surgery,” team boss Bjarne Riis told journalists. “He’s in a lot of pain and is getting stitches.
“Mentally he’s destroyed, of course. He was in the shape of his life. This was his Tour.
“It’s a mess. We were here to win the Tour de France. He’s in super good condition, never better. It’s a big, big pity.”
After pulling out of the race, Contador went for an X-ray in the Tour’s medical bus.
The departure of the two pre-race favorites left Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali in a strong position and he regained the yellow jersey by winning the 161.5km mountainous stage from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles.
Nibali, who had begun the day in second behind Tony Gallopin (Lotto-Belisol), now leads Sky’s Richie Porte by 2:23 with Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) in third at 2:47.
Contador suffered a nasty gash to his right knee and had blood pouring down his leg as he received lengthy treatment by the side of the road.
Nibali, who said he saw the crash, said Contador had passed him on a descent.
“I would have followed him because there was a climb coming up but the moment he passed me, I don’t know how, but he fell in front of me,” said Nibali.
“It was incredible, he rolled around on the ground. We were going at 60kph.”
The race doctor bandaged Contador’s knee, and the Tinkoff rider changed bikes and a shoe before continuing the race.
He had lost around four minutes on the peloton by this time, after which Astana took over pacesetting at the front, Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammates Tony Martin and Michal Kwiatkowski having gone up the road and posing a threat on GC.
Despite five teammates dropping back to help pace Contador up the Col du Platzerwasel, he started losing more time.
Around 15km later, about halfway through the stage, Contador shared a hug with chief lieutenant Michael Rogers before stopping by the side of the road and climbing into a team car, visibly in pain.
Froome posted his commiserations on Twitter, saying: “Big loss for the TDF today. Recover well @albertocontador & I hope to see you at the Vuelta.”
Last Wednesday, Froome crashed twice before climbing off his bike and quitting the Tour.
The 29-year-old Team Sky leader had already injured his wrist the previous day in a crash and an MRI scan on Thursday showed he had fractures to his left wrist and right hand.
Tiago Machado (NetApp-Endura), who started the day third overall, was another to crash on the descent of the Petit Ballon, although he had rejoined the peloton by the time it crested the Col du Platzerwasel with 90km left.
However, he suffered a terrible day and came home last, shepherded by teammate Andreas Schillinger, more than 43 minutes behind Nibali and more than 10 after the previous stragglers.
Organizers had initially announced that he had abandoned the race.