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LE HAVRE, France (CT) – Tony Martin’s stint in the yellow jersey has ended many days sooner than he had envisaged, with the German rider forced to quit the race and travel to Hamburg for immediate surgery.
Martin took over the race lead on Tuesday when he attacked with just over three kilometres to go and soloed to victory. It was his first time to hold the Maillot Jaune and he said that he hoped to hold it until the first rest day.
However he hit the deck inside the final kilometre of stage six to Le Havre and has a shattered collarbone.
“I really wish I could continue, to even just start tomorrow, even if it is broken,” he said. “I wish I could honour the jersey and show it one last time with a ceremony at the start. I could enjoy it a little more than I have the last days and then stop.
“But it is now clear I need to go to the hospital for surgery immediately, and my race is over. It’s hard to accept. I’d like to keep fighting. But the doctor has the last word, and when he says there is no way to continue I must accept this.”
The crash occurred when Martin’s front wheel clipped the rear wheel of Europcar rider Bryan Coquard. The inadvertent contact caused the Etixx-QuickStep rider to lose contact and his bike veered to the right, causing him to clip shoulders with a Giant-Alpecin rider and fall heavily.
He remained on the ground for several minutes, clutching his collarbone, then was helped to his feet and pushed across the line by his team-mates.
“Unfortunately, the collarbone is a lateral fracture,” stated the team doctor Helge Riepenhof.
“The collarbone is in lots of pieces, so it was a major impact. One of the pieces came through the skin, which means it’s an open fracture. Therefore, even if it was Tony’s wish to start tomorrow, I have to say he is not allowed to.
“Riders always want to race. Tony especially. He’s shown in the last years that even with broken bones that he will race if possible. But this is a medical situation where this is impossible. He needs surgery straight away, and that is why we are going to the hospital now.”
He will travel to the BG hospital and the collarbone will be fixed together there.
“It’s a serious injury,” said Riepenhof, who confirmed that he has already been put on antibiotics. “That is why we can’t risk anything and why he cannot be at the start tomorrow.”
Martin said that he can’t remember exactly how the crash happened, although he was shown replays of the impact by French television afterwards.
“The team put me in a really good position,” he said. “dOn the last kilometer no one had the energy left to continue the speed. Everything slowed down, everyone was waiting. Then suddenly I hit the rear wheel of the rider in front of me. I thought I almost could stay upright, but then I went into a rider of Giant-Alpecin and I had no balance anymore.
The major issue was the angle at which he fell and the way this focussed the force of the impact.
“I crashed at relatively low speed, with my full weight on the left shoulder,” he explained. “I felt directly that something was broken. We went to make an X-Ray directly after the finish because I was thinking ‘OK, maybe I am wrong. Maybe I can start tomorrow.’ But now it is confirmed my clavicle is broken.”
He added that his Tour experience has been an emotional rollercoaster and that he ends his race feeling very sad at what happened.
One small consolation for he and the team is the stage victory of Zdenek Stybar, who clipped away moments after Martin’s crash and held off the chasers to win.
“With Stybar it was such a good moment,” said Martin, congratulating his team-mate. “It’s so strange to be so sad and happy together.
“I told Stybar to not be sad for me. I told him to enjoy his day, as he deserves it. I am sure the team will keep the morale high. That’s the Tour de France.”
The rider who was in second overall, Chris Froome, will take over the race lead on Friday morning.