A worker decorates a bridge along the first stage of the Tour de France. Photo: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

DUSSELDORF - Tour de France contender Nairo Quintana suffered a blow as key team-mate Alejandro Valverde crashed out of the race during Saturday's opening stage in Dusseldorf.

Valverde, who was third two years ago, came down hard on a slippery bend in miserable wet conditions and was visibly in great pain.

His Movistar team announced on Twitter a few minutes later that he could not continue.

"Unfortunately @aljandrovalverde cannot continue in the race. What sadness to finish a Tour on the first day," said Movistar.

Spaniard Valverde seemed to jar his left leg when he touched his foot down as he lost his back wheel, before skidding hard into the metal crash barriers.

It was immediately clear he wouldn't be able to continue but his team frantically tried to move him as he was stranded on the apex of a tricky bend, with many other riders set to come around it having set off at one minute intervals.

Valverde was expected to play a pivotal role in helping twice runner-up Quintana in his bid to defeat reigning champion Chris Froome during the Tour's mountain stages.

He wasn't the only rider to crash badly with Frenchman Tony Gallopin also unseated.

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