Tuesday 7 Jul 2015

As GoPros fill the peloton and the team cars, the sound and images we have from the Tour de France bring us further into the action than ever before.

This video footage was captured by the Orica-GreenEDGE team mechanic, Fausto Oppici as he ran to the scene of the crash and attempted to help riders get back on their bikes while others assessed the impact of their injuries.

Broken bones, broken bikes and the awful groans of broken men.

Orica-GreenEDGE rider Simon Gerrans had to bail out of the race with a broken wrist after getting caught up in the crash that saw several of his peers seriously injured, a couple worse than him. Team-mates Daryl Impey and Michael Matthews were also involved, with Impey also retiring while Matthews, for now, rides on.

The Tour de France, like any bike race, has a history of crashes, some worse than others. Riders have lost their lives in many race, too, and that none did after an horrific pile-up during Stage 3 was something of a miracle.

Not every rider escaped unscathed, though, with several seriously injured, such as FDJ's William Bonnet, who was taken to hospital for surgery to stabilise his shattered neck. Bones were broken, many bones. Australian Simon Gerrans smashed his wrist, Orica-GreenEDGE team-mate Daryl Impey damaged his shoulder, and Fabian Cancellara, who had started the day in the yellow jersey, broke two bones in his back, putting him out of the race as well.

The images were not pretty, but served as a reminder of the dangers of professional road racing, and also the tough nature of all those that take part.

DESKTOP INTERACTIVE: Pain of the peloton

Tour de France director, Christian Prudhomme, was criticised by some riders and team staff for his decision to neutralise part of the stage due to the large number of casualities at the 58km to go mark.

Etixx-QuickStep manager, Patrick Lefevere was one of the more vocal opponents of the decision, taking to Twitter to voice his disapproval.

The peloton were forced to stand still as their injured colleagues assesed their injuries and abadoned the Tour or rode back up to the front of the race. Riders rode a sedated ascent up the Côte de Bohisseau before they were given permission to resume racing for the remaining 50km of the stage.

The decision was made on the grounds that there were no medical vehicles left to attend to the remaining riders in the peloton if another crash happened further up the road. 

Tinkoff-Saxo were one of the few teams unaffected by the crashes on the road to Huy. Peter Sagan finished the day in the white jersey for the best young rider and Alberto Contador moved up to eighth on the overall classification.

Desptie his eighth place ranking, Contador lost ground to GC rivals on the final metres up the Mur de Hoy. He finished 18 seconds behind Chris Froome (Sky) and seven seconds back from Tejay van Garderen (BMC), Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), and Movistar's Nairo Quintana and Alexjandro Valverde.

“We saw some time differences today. I might have lacked a bit of sugar in the finale but I’ve always said that we will see bigger time differences in the mountains. Froome was very strong. He nearly won the stage today. But there are still many days of racing. You must stay positive. The yellow jersey gives you confidence, you tell yourself you're well but it also creates pressure and responsibilities. Still I would love to hold it." - Alberto Contador

“Besides Sagan taking the white jersey, I think the most positive on today’s stage is the important fact that non of our riders were involved in the two big and serious crashes. A lot of guys were knocked down and the race was practically running out of doctors. We support the decision to neutralize the race temporarily - it was a wise decision in a hectic moment." - Tinkoff-Saxo sport director, Steven de Jongh



While the longer term impacts of the harrowing Stage 3 crashes ripple through the peloton, riders also have to regroup and refocus for the stages ahead.

For Sky's Chris Froome unexpectedly winning the yellow jersey, after his strong climb to the finish line in Huy, will buoy the team as they aim to stay clear of danger in the nervous approach to the Stage 4 cobbles.

“Let’s hope we can just get through with no major issues. I think that’s what everyone’s thinking about at this stage.” - Chris Froome