Zdenek Stybar won a bitter-sweet sixth stage of the Tour de France on Thursday as his teammate and race leader Tony Martin crashed in the final kilometre.
Martin was trying to set up another teammate Mark Cavendish for a sprint finish when he wobbled on the bike and tumbled on a steep finish, bringing down reigning champion Vincenzo Nibali.
Martin was left clutching his shoulder on the tarmac and the 30-year-old German needed help from his teammates to cross the line as he couldn’t hold his handlebars, putting his continued participation at the Tour in doubt.
The crash caused chaos at the front of the race and Czech Stybar pounced on the mayhem to streak clear and win the 189.5km stage from Abbeville to Le Havre.
Peter Sagan won the sprint finish for second place with Germany’s John Degenkolb third.
For Slovak Sagan it was his third second placed finish in the race to add to a third place and continues his frustrating run of near misses stretching back 41 stages to stage seven of the 2013 Tour.
Since then he has taken eight second places and 17 top five finishes without managing to snatch a win.
But the main drama was on the steep 850m long, 7.0 percent gradient slope that preceded the final 500m dash to the line.
Martin, despite wearing the yellow jersey, was trying to help set up Cavendish for the finish but he clipped the wheel of Bryan Coquard in front of him, wobbled and then fell into the rider to his right, with Nibali next to that and brought down in the melee.
Around 10 riders hit the tarmac but as the crash happened in the final 3km, rules state that everyone delayed by the incident would get the same time as those in the group in front of them.
It meant no change to the overall standings with 2013 champion Chris Froome 12sec behind Martin and Tejay Van Garderen, who was also brought down, third at 25sec.
But whether Martin takes to the stage start in Livarot on Friday remains to be seen. – Agence France-Presse