HUY, Belgium (VN) — The Tour de France came to a grinding halt Monday after a massive pileup prompted race officials to momentarily stop the third stage, something rarely seen in the heat of the race.
Yellow jersey Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) was catapulted into the roadside grass, and seemed to be experiencing back pain, and eventually ceded the maillot jaune after finishing nearly 12 minutes in arrears. The Swiss time trial and classics ace suffered a fractured vertebrae earlier this season at E3 Harelbeke.
Citing a lack of medical personnel to attend the shattered peloton, race officials stopped the peloton a few kilometers after nearly two dozen riders toppled head-over-heels in a high-speed crash. GPS tracking data revealed the peloton was zipping along at 42kph.
On a flat, wide-open stretch of road about 59km to go, an FDJ rider clipped wheels near the front end of the peloton, causing a massive crash that was impossible to avoid for riders powering along the right side of the road. More than a dozen hit the tarmac, many with serious injuries. Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), Dmitry Kozontchuk (Katusha), and William Bonnet (FDJ) all abandoned.
Others hit the ground hard, including Daniel Oss (BMC Racing), Daniel Teklehaimanot (MTN-Qhubeka), Johan Van Summeren (Ag2r-La Mondiale), and Greg Henderson (Lotto-Soudal). Laurens Ten Dam (Lotto-JumboNL) suffered a dislocated shoulder, but still managed to finish the stage.
As riders, staff and medical personnel assessed the damage, Tour director Christian Prudhomme stood out of the roof window of the lead car, and waved the riders to slow down a few kilometers down the road. Moments later, the decision was made to stop the race entirely, something rarely seen in a top-level race.
“I’ve never seen that before in a race, but for them to stop the Tour like that, we feared it was something very serious. Now that we hear that it was for a question over medical staff, everyone is relieved,” said Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador at the finish line. “I was not involved in the crash, but it just shows how dangerous the Tour can be at any moment.”
Battered and bloodied riders slowly rejoined the peloton, many with grimacing faces and torn jerseys. After nearly 10 minutes in a village along the route, the race resumed, but the day’s first climb, the category 4 Cote de Bohissau was also neutralized. The race recommenced at the top of the climb.