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Cobbles, downpours and mud cause dozens of crashes during the Tour de France’s treacherous Stage 5

Belkin Procycling’s Lars Boom of Netherlands crosses the finish line. (Yoan Valat/EPA)

Everybody knew the fifth stage of this year’s Tour de France was going to be dangerous. After all, the tour’s sports director Thierry Gouvenou did deem it the “battlefield.” But add heavy rain to the mix and, well, it’s amazing the show went on.

Hats off to Belkin Pro Cycling’s Lars Boom who came out on top, finishing the nearly 100-mile ride that took cyclists on the muddy, rocky, cobblestone roads from Ypres to Arenberg Porte du Hainaut. He toughed it out for three hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds to cross the finish line covered in enough mud to make it look like he was wrestling hogs in a sty instead.

The conditions didn’t favor all the cyclists, however.

Race favorite Chris Froome, who was leading Team Sky in hopes winning the Tour de France two years in a row, suffered his second and third crash today, which injured him enough that he decided to withdraw.

German rider Tony Martin of Omega Pharma-Quick Step — the team previously led by Mark Cavendish who exited this year’s race after a crash in Stage 1 and had surgery today — also crashed.

As did Team Giant-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel of Germany, who’s already won three of this year’s stages.

And the list goes on. Before the cyclists even made it to the first section of cobbles, Garmin-Sharp’s Janier Acevedo of Colombia, FDJ’s Cedric Pineau of France, Cofidis, Solutions Credits’s Rudy Molard of France, Team Katusha’s Alexander Kristoff of Norway, Team Sky’s Vasil Kiryienka of Belarus, Trek Factory Racing’s Fabian Cancellara of Switzerland, and IAM Cycling’s Sylvain Chavanel of France also all crashed.

Even more riders went down after the cobbles began, including Garmin-Sharp’s Lars Bak of Denmark and Andrew Talansky of the United States, BMC Racing’s Tejay van Garderen of the United States, and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde of Spain. But the day’s most visually jarring crash goes to Belgian rider Jurgen van den Broeck of Team Lotto-Belisol, who somersaulted over his handlebars after hitting a bend in a muddy cobblestone road. He landed in a the ditch with a spectator. Both miraculously seemed to emerge OK. 

Not everyone had a bad day, however. Besides the winner Boom, current tour leader Astana’s Vincenzo Nibali of Italy finished in a good enough spot to retain the yellow jersey, and Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador of Spain, who many believe will emerge as this year’s winner, was able to keep up.

The tour heads into a much more pleasant Stage 6 on Thursday, which goes from Arras to Reims in a 120-mile stretch. It may be longer but at least it’s paved.

Marissa Payne writes for The Early Lead, a fast-breaking sports blog, where she focuses on what she calls the “cultural anthropological” side of sports, aka “mostly the fun stuff.” She is also an avid WWE fan.
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