CHAMBÉRY, France (CT) – Richie Porte (BMC) is out of the 2017 Tour de France after a frightening, high-speed crash on the final descent of stage 9.
Porte was in an elite group of seven riders that was chasing lone leader Warren Barguil (Sunweb) on the descent off the Mont du Chat. With roughly 20km remaining in the stage Porte missed a tight left-hand corner, crashing heavily before sliding across the road into a wall.
Porte remained on the road for several minutes while medical staff applied a neck brace and stretchered the Tasmanian to a waiting ambulance. Porte was taken to hospital for X-rays which later revealed that Porte had fractured his collarbone and pelvis in the crash.
“X-rays confirmed a non-displaced right clavicle fracture and a non-displaced right acetabulum fracture,” said BMC’s chief medical officer Dr. Max Testa. “Richie also suffered extensive superficial abrasions involving the right side of his body. At this stage, the injuries will not require surgery.
“The plan is to re-evaluate Richie tomorrow morning and confirm that he is stable enough to be transferred home.”
The 32-year-old is expected to spend a minimum of four weeks off the bike.
“Normally, a fractured clavicle and pelvis would require four to six weeks’ recovery, providing there are no complications,” Dr Testa continued. “If everything goes to plan, Richie could be back on the bike at the beginning of August and slowly build his fitness up from there.
“Based on Richie’s recovery, we will re-evaluate his program for the rest of the season in consultation with BMC Racing Team management.”
Race doctor, Dr Florence Pommerie, told CyclingTips after the stage that Porte was conscious when she attended to him immediately after the incident.
“The first examination, the first check on the road, was almost good,” Pommerie said. “He was very well conscious, oriented [ed. not disoriented] … [the injuries] were less impressive than we imagined.
“I just asked some questions to know he was not disoriented. His age, his name, what happened. He was speaking very well, normally. He asked something about his glasses — very expensive — but I didn’t find the glasses anyway.
“He was afraid, I think, to move anything. But he was speaking. He just wanted to know if there was something … a fracture or something. He didn’t want to move because he was afraid. But … he said, ‘I’m okay. I think I am okay.’”
BMC Racing Team sports director Fabio Baldato addressed the media after the stage and explained that the mood in the BMC camp was, understandably, sombre.
“We are all sad. We did a lot of work,” said Baldato. “Richie did a lot of work for this Tour de France, from the beginning of the year. We did a lot of training, recon, training camp […] we did everything that was possible to put him on the podium. From the first day all the team was around him. We are sad.”
When asked whether he thought the Mont du Chat descent was too dangerous, Baldato replied:
“We know before [what it was like],” he said. “We did [it] four times before the race. We did training, we did a race — we know it was [a] dangerous one. I can not say anything else.”
Dan Martin (QuickStep Floors) also crashed in the incident, the Irishman unable to avoid Porte when Porte hit the ground.
“Richie just lost it on one corner. It is so slippery,” Martin said after the stage. “I guess the organisers got what they wanted.
“I don’t think anybody wants to take risks down there. But it was so slippery under the trees. Richie just locked up his back wheel, went straight onto the grass, wiped out and then his bike just collected me. I had nowhere to go. I was very, very lucky to come away as lightly as I did, I think.”
Unlike Porte, Martin was able to continue on and finish the stage, despite crashing again on the descent. When asked what he had injured, Martin replied: “I don’t know … I think adrenaline has covered it up so far.”
In all, five riders abandoned the Tour on stage 9: Porte; Sky’s Geraint Thomas, who had been second overall and broke his collarbone; Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo), who suffered a fracture to his L1 vertebrae; Jos Van Emden (LottoNL-Jumbo); and Manuele Mori (Team Emirates). Meanwhile, seven riders missed the time cut, not least stage 4 winner Arnaud Demare (FDJ).
Today's medical bulletin. Brutal pic.twitter.com/9A1goYC22s
— Tom Cary (@tomcary_tel) July 9, 2017
Richie Porte had started the stage in fifth overall, 39 seconds behind overall leader Chris Froome (Sky). Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale-Drapac) went on to win stage 9, while Froome was third and extended his lead in the general classification.