LE TOUQUET-PARIS-PLAGE, FRANCE - JULY 08: Chris Froome of Great Britain and Team Sky receives medical attention after being involved in a crash early in the race during stage four of the 2014 Le Tour de France from Le Touquet-Paris-Plage to Lille on July 8, 2014 in Le Touquet-Paris-Plage, France. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Aarras, France – Chris Froome will now target the Vuelta a Espana after crashing out of the Tour de France, his team manager Dave Brailsford said.

Froome's defence of the title he won in Paris a year ago ended painfully on Wednesday when he crashed out of the fifth stage.

It was always likely to be a complicated stage as there were seven cobbled sections totalling 13km to negotiate but Froome hit the deck twice before even reaching those.

Visibly in pain, he climbed into his team car after the second fall and his Tour was over.

“It's just unfortunate for Chris, he's worked ever so hard to be in good shape and really believed he could win this race,” said Brailsford.

“But I think he'll be back and that's part of this sport. You get knocked down, you get back and you go again.

“We will, I'm sure, see him in the Vuelta and go from there.”

The Vuelta, in which Froome was second in 2011 and fourth in 2012, begins on August 23 in Jerez de la Frontera.

In Froome's absence, Vincenzo Nibali had a stunning ride on the cobbles to finish third on the stage and increase his overall lead ahead of everyone except teammate Jakob Fuglsang.

The Dane is second at just 2sec after guiding Nibali over the cobbles and to the finish behind stage winner Lars Boom.

Nibali's primary rival for the Tour title, Alberto Contador, lost more than 2min 30sec but the Spaniard said the race for yellow is just beginning.

“It was a really difficult day, you had to be vigilant the whole time,” said the Tinkoff-Saxo rider.

“We lost a lot of time with respect to the top overall classification riders.

“Nibali was in the right place on the second cobbled sector when the race broke apart.

“The important thing was to save the day without falling.

“In the last few kilometres I had to pedal in low gears because of all the mud I'd picked up.

“Now I have to recover and we'll pass into new territory. The Tour is just beginning.”

Thursday's sixth stage takes the riders over 194km from Arras to Reims.

It is set to be a poignant day as it will include commemorations to remember those who died during World War I.

The day's course rides past several famous WWI battlefields, including the Chemin des Dames.

French president Francois Hollande is due to visit the Tour as it passes that point.

The roadside has also been planted with blue cornflowers especially for the occasion.

The blue cornflower has come to be regarded as the symbol of French WWI infantrymen, known as 'Poilus' (hairy ones) for their youth, virility and courage.

As a mark of remembrance, the white jersey worn by the best young rider in the peloton will, especially for the occasion, be emblazoned with a blue cornflower.

The peloton will pay tribute to former riders who died during the Great War, including three winners, Luxemburger Francois Faber and Frenchmen Octave Lapize and Lucien Petit-Breton.

Faber, a Francophile, had joined the French Foreign Legion and was killed on the frontline on May 9, 1915, tragically just a day after he found out about the birth of his daughter.

Lapize died in an aerial battle on July 14, 1917, while Petit-Breton was killed in a car accident while on a mission.

It is part of around 2,000 commemorative events planned in France over the next four years to mark the centenary of World War I (1914-18). – Sapa-AFP