Arenberg, France • Dutch rider Lars Boom won a chaotic, crash-marred fifth stage of the Tour de France on Wednesday marked by the withdrawal of defending champion Chris Froome after his second fall in two days.
Riders became wary of the stage full of cobblestone sections when the route was revealed last October, and their fears worsened when rain slicked the already treacherous path from Ypres, Belgium, to Arenberg-Porte du Hainaut.
Thursday’s stageThursday, 6 a.m.
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121 mile » Mostly flat from Arras to Reims. The stage runs along the battlefields of World War I in a nod to the centenary of its start.
Sensing the danger, race organizers scrapped two of the nine scheduled cobblestone patches, and reduced the stage by three kilometers (two miles). But that still wasn’t enough to stop many riders from tumbling.
Froome, already nursing pain in his left wrist from a crash on Tuesday, took a spill even before the cobblestones halfway through the stage. With a cut under his right eye, the Team Sky leader limped over to a team car, climbed in, and quit a three-week race that became wide open.
The team wrote on Twitter: "Heartbreak for Chris Froome after another hard crash."
The last time a defending champion abandoned the Tour was five-time winner Bernard Hinault of France in 1980, according to French cycling statistics.
Race leader Vincenzo Nibali was one of several high-profile riders who crashed, recovered and excelled on the 152.5-kilometer (95-mile) route. The Italian finished third and extended his lead. He and second-place Jakob Fuglsang of Denmark were 19 seconds behind Boom.
"This is a special, special day for me," said Boom, who rides for Belkin Pro Cycling. "I was really looking forward to the cobblestones."
Overall, Nibali leads his Astana teammate Fuglsgang by 2 seconds.
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