Yellow jersey Tony Martin (Etixx-QuickStep) has been forced to abandon the Tour de France after suffering a broken collarbone in a crash late into stage six of this year’s race.
Martin went down heavily as he fought for position in the bunch, on a stage which team-mate Zdenek Stybar went on to win, and had to be helped across the finish line.
The German could not grip his handlebars with his left-hand, and a post-race x-ray has confirmed the worst case scenario – and while Der Panzerwagen refused to throw in the towel, the severity of the injury means doctors will not allow him to race on stage seven.
“Unfortunately, the collarbone is a lateral fracture,” team doctor Helge Riepenhof said. “The collarbone is in lots of pieces, so it was a major impact. One of the pieces came through the skin, which means it’s an open fracture. Therefore, even if it was Tony’s wish to start tomorrow, I have to say he is not allowed to.
“Riders always want to race. Tony especially. He’s shown in the last years that even with broken bones that he will race if possible. But this is a medical situation where this is impossible.
“He needs surgery straight away, and that is why we are going to the hospital now. We will fix the collarbone there. He is already on antibiotics. It’s a serious injury, and that is why we can’t risk anything and why he cannot be at the start tomorrow.”
Martin was due to play an integral part in the Etixx-QuickStep lead out for Mark Cavendish on the flat stage seven and then in the team time trial on stage nine, but he will now fly to Hamburg immediately for his surgery.
“I can’t remember exactly what happened,” the German said. “The team put me in a really good position. On the last kilometer no one had the energy left to continue the speed.
“Everything slowed down, everyone was waiting. Then suddenly I hit the rear wheel of the rider in front of me. I thought I almost could stay upright, but then I went into a rider of Giant-Alpecin and I had no balance anymore.
“I crashed at relatively low speed, with my full weight on the left shoulder. I felt directly that something was broken. We went to make an X-Ray directly after the finish because i was thinking ‘OK, maybe I am wrong. Maybe I can start tomorrow.’
“But now it is confirmed my clavicle is broken. This has been like a movie, an emotional roller coaster at this Tour. Now I am really sad.
“The team gave everything to protect the jersey today. We had again the chance to do it and try to keep it a few more days. It’s really been a big success up to this point. With Stybar it was such a good moment.
“It’s so strange to be so sad and happy together. I told Stybar to not be sad for me. I told him to enjoy his day, as he deserves it. I am sure the team will keep the morale high.
“That’s the Tour de France. I really wish I could continue, to even just start tomorrow, even if it is broken. I wish I could honor the jersey and show it one last time with a ceremony at the start. I could enjoy it a little more than I have the last days and then stop.
“But it is now clear I need to go to the hospital for surgery immediately, and my race is over. It’s hard to accept. I’d like to keep fighting. But the doctor has the last word, and when he says there is no way to continue I must accept this.”
Martin previously held a 12-second lead over Team Sky’s second-placed Chris Froome, who had worn the jersey on stage four when the Etixx-QuickStep man soloed to victory and into the race lead.
Froome, as a result, becomes the new leader of the Tour, and leads BMC Racing’s Tejay van Garderen by 13 seconds, with Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo) a further two seconds back.
It is the second time in the race Froome has become the race leader after the previous leader crashed out – Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) started stage three in the yellow jersey but was a number of riders brought down in a high-speed crash, meaning Froome’s second place was enough to claim the overall lead on bonus seconds. Cancellara, like Martin, finished the stage but abandoned overnight.