X-rays have confirmed that Tony Martin fractured his left collarbone during a fall in the finale of stage 6 of the Tour de France and will not start Friday's stage. After initially vowing to continue, the race leader is out of the Tour de France and will instead travel back home to Germany for surgery.
After completing x-rays in the mobile medial unit, Martin tweeted: “Collarbone is broken. We will discuss further steps.”
Once the team doctor was consulted, it became clear there was no way that Martin could continue in the Tour de France.
"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 straightaway, 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."
The stage was a bittersweet moment for the Etixx-QuickStep team because Zdenek Stybar soloed to the win ahead of the wreck involving Martin. The German wanted to make sure his teammate could enjoy his stage victory.
"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," Martin said. "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."
Journey to yellow ends in despair
It took Martin four stages to claim the maillot jaune after holding second place overall since the opening time trial. He finally took the race lead on stage 4 with a gutsy solo attack in the final kilometres.
Martin held the race lead until he crashed at the foot of the climb to the finish in Le Havre after touching the rear wheel of a Europcar rider. The bump caused him to swerve into Giant-Alpecin's Warren Barguil, who in turn knocked Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) over. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) was unable to avoid the fallen riders and he, too, crashed, while Chris Froome (Sky) narrowly avoided the pile of fallen riders.
Martin immediately held his arm as if his collarbone was fractured but made it to the finish of the stage thanks to several teammates pushing him up the hill.
Martin was given the same time as the leaders because the crash occurred inside the final three kilometres, and so kept the yellow jersey. Examinations later showed his left collarbone was indeed broken.
Martin explained what caused the crash after struggling to pull on the yellow jersey on the podium. "I touched the back wheel of a Europcar rider. It was stressful like always. I can’t really remember but as usual with crashes when they are not at high speed, normally the injuries are the worst," he said.
"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," Martin said. "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."
Despite winning the stage there were no celebrations at the Etixx-QuickStep team bus, as the team considered facing the coming stages without its 'panzerwagen'.
"It’s sad to lose the yellow jersey like that," team manager Patrick Lefevere said. "Don’t forget it’s a man less for the train for Mark [Cavendish] tomorrow. Our maillot jaune was also one of strongest men of the team for the team time trial."
“It’s with mixed emotions that I’m standing here. We’re obviously very happy with the win from Stybi. We believed in it. But if you lose the yellow jersey like that there’s major consequences. Don’t forget there’s still the team time trial on Sunday.”