CHAMBÉRY, France – Colombian Rigoberto Uran won a drama-filled ninth stage of the Tour de France on Sunday as Australian Richie Porte and Briton Geraint Thomas crashed out.
Champion Chris Froome retained the yellow jersey after finishing the stage third, behind Frenchman Warren Barguil, who missed out on victory in a photo-finish.
Briton Froome’s four bonus seconds on the line helped him increase his lead to 18 seconds over Italian Fabio Aru, who moved up a place to second with Thomas having quit the race.
Bardet is now third at 51 seconds with Uran, who took the winner’s 10-second bonus, fourth at 55 seconds.
But other contenders, including twice former runner-up Nairo Quintana of Colombia, lost more than a minute, as did Dan Martin, who courageously battled on despite being taken down by Porte’s spectacular crash, and even coming off his bike a second time on that same perilous descent.
Porte’s crash was the most dramatic as he clipped the grass verge on the inside of a bend on the lightning quick descent down the fearsome Mont du Chat, less than 25km from the finish.
He came off his bike and skidded across the tarmac into Martin, clattering both into the rock face on the other side of the road.
“Devastating images of @richie_porte coming from the road after a nasty crash. Richie will be taken to hospital for examination,” said Porte’s BMC team on Twitter.
He lay motionless on the road for some time, being attended to by medics before being taken to hospital, although organisers said he was conscious and speaking.
Thomas had crashed on another descent, made treacherous by rain, earlier in the day, suffering a suspected broken collarbone.
It meant it was a bitter-sweet day for Froome who, despite increasing his lead and seeing several top rivals lose time, lost his chief Team Sky lieutenant Thomas and good friend Porte.
Twice former winner Alberto Contador was one of the big losers on the day from the 181.5km stage from Nantua to Chambéry.
The Spanish veteran cracked on the final of seven categorised climbs and lost several minutes by the finish.
Martin, though, produced a remarkable ride despite his two crashes to limit his losses.
“I managed to catch the group in front of me after I crashed the second time – I was flying down the mountain,” he said with a smile.
“After I caught Nairo (Quintana) at the bottom, everyone was committed and it was just a case of getting to the finish.
Like Quintana, he came home 1 minute 15 seconds behind Uran, and now sits sixth at 1:44, with Quintana remaining eighth but now out to 2:13 behind Froome.