was forced to pull out of the Tour de France last night after crashing in bizarre circumstances just inside the closing kilometre of stage six.
While his Etixx-Quick Step team-mate, Zdenek Stybar, was powering to victory in Le Havre, Martin appeared to veer violently right, barging into another rider who in turn took out Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana in a domino effect. Martin later said he had clipped the wheel of a rider in front of him. "He abandons," a spokesman said.
Accelerating past on the outside, Chris Froome was lucky to avoid hitting the deck. The Sky team leader was sent into a speed-wobble but remained upright and eventually crossed the line unscathed but with a buckled wheel.
Nibali initially blamed Froome for the crash and claimed to be “very angry”, but the Sky rider later visited the Astana team bus to have it out with his rival, who apologised upon seeing footage of the incident.
“Did we clear it all up?” said Nibali. “Yeah. We are not footballers, we are cyclists.”
In Martin’s absence, Froome takes over as race leader as the next-best-placed rider on general classification. Martin is the second race leader to withdraw through injury, following Fabian Cancellara’s abandonment on Monday.
As the various riders involved in the crash extricated themselves from the pile-up, it quickly became apparent the maillot jaune had come off worst and it was confirmed Martin had broken his collarbone.
Riding home one-handed, he was flanked by several team-mates, with Julian Vermote and Michal Kwiatkowski pushing him over the line.
“I was extremely unlucky,” said Martin. “I can’t really remember what happened. I touched the wheel of the rider ahead of me. It’s the Tour, luck and bad luck are very close together. It’s often the way accidents happen. You’re not going that fast and then you fall over each other with all your weight.”
With its short, steep climb to a finishing straight that levels out for the final 400m, this stage to Le Havre prompted considerable debate over who would prevail: sprinters or puncheurs, specialists on this terrain. Such sharp ascents can prove tricky for out-and-out fastmen such as Andre Greipel and Mark Cavendish, but are relished by the likes of Peter Sagan, the Tinkoff-Saxo rider whose quick acceleration up small climbs made him odds-on favourite for the win.
Sadly, for the fourth time in five stages, the unfortunate Slovakian finished second to former cyclo-cross rider Stybar, who made an impressive contribution to an increasingly weird week for Etixx-Quick Step.
In just six stages, the Belgian team have had the mother of all internecine bust-ups and been publicly flamed by their owner. They have won two stages and narrowly missed out on two others.
They have had a sporting director suspended for a stage after film of him celebrating in a team car showed he was not wearing a seatbelt. And now, having finally got Martin into the yellow jersey for the first time in his career after two near misses, the keystone Quick Steppers have lost it sooner than expected due to the German’s crash.
Before their incident-packed finish, the peloton had a little under 191 uneventful kilometres with which to contend, setting off from Abbeville in the Somme, heading to Dieppe and then making their way along the north-west coast to the port of Le Havre.
Stage seven takes the peloton from Livarot, hosting the Tour for the first time and known for the pungency of its Graindorge cheese, to Fougeres along a long and flat route that Etixx-Quick Step have earmarked as a final chance for Cavendish to open his account before the race enters the mountains. Guardian Service