Leader Martin pulls out injured
LE HAVRE, France — The yellow jersey seems to be an unlucky charm at this Tour de France.
German rider Tony Martin started Thursday's sixth stage in the lead and ended it in the hospital after breaking his collarbone in a crash that he caused near the finish line. He became the second race leader to pull out of the race, after Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara fractured two vertebrae in his lower back on Monday.
"The collarbone is in lots of pieces, so it was a major impact," Martin's Etixx Quick-Step team doctor Helge Riepenhof said. "One of the pieces came through the skin, which means it's an open fracture."
The crash also dragged down defending champion Vincenzo Nibali and fellow Tour contender Nairo Quintana, but they escaped with cuts and bruises. Czech rider Zdenek Stybar rode away amid the chaos to clinch his first Tour stage win.
While neither Martin nor Cancellara was a contender for the overall victory, the injuries they sustained highlight how tough this Tour has been already — and the battered riders haven't even reached the mountains yet.
There was intense heat on day 1, ferocious side winds on day 2, a huge crash on stage 3, scary cobblestone sections on stage 4, and lashing rain on stage 5.
And on the sixth day, another crash.
"This has been like a movie, an emotional roller coaster at this Tour," Martin said.
Frenchman William Bonnet injured his neck after causing Monday's crash, which brought down 30 riders, while Australian rider Michael Matthews finished Thursday's ride despite having two broken ribs sustained on the third stage. He is in last place overall.
With Martin out, 2013 Tour champion Chris Froome moves into the overall lead. The Briton may elect not to wear the yellow jersey today — a sign of respect toward Martin under cycling's etiquette guidelines.
And he may be better off without it.
Martin, his yellow jersey shining, moved near the front during the final kilometers in order to put teammate Mark Cavendish in a good position to attack.
He lost control of his bike with about 900 meters to go. It swerved to the right, clipped another bike and then brought down some eight other riders.
Moments later, he was sitting against a railing, staring into space as the dazed riders looked around for their bikes.
Unable to hold his handlebar, with his left arm in a sling position, Martin rolled slowly over the line with several teammates alongside him.
Two-time Tour champion Alberto Contador of Spain and Froome have escaped all the crashes — although the British rider almost fell when Nibali's bike swerved into his.