Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) saw the gap to race leader Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) widen, after a mechanical issue prevented him from chasing the Italian. Contador began stage 5 of this Tour de France in fifth place, just two seconds behind Nibali, but has now fallen down to 19th – 2:37 down on the yellow jersey.
"Because of the mud I didn’t drop into the small sprockets and I couldn’t keep up with the front," Contador said after he rolled across the line.
They day was always going to be an incredibly tricky one for the general classification rider, but the rain added an extra problem that they could have done without. When the cobbles last featured in the Tour de France, Contador was one of the few who sailed through with little difficulty. Aside from the mud in his gears, Contador’s day went off without a hitch. However he wasn’t willing to put it all on the line when the mountains are still to come.
"It was a difficult stage from the outset, there was a lot of danger. The differences are big, but the Tour is all ahead. And I want to thank my team, which was tremendous," he said. "Of course I wish we were at the same time or the lead was in my favour, but seeing how the situation is and how the cobbles were, I did not want to take more risk than necessary. I'd rather lose a minute than to fall and, on the other hand, the Tour is all still ahead.
"Now I will take some rest and then we will arrive on my terrain."
The big news of the day was that Contador’s biggest rival and the defending champion Chris Froome had abandoned the race. Froome crashed twice before the riders had reached the cobbles and climbed into the team car after the second incident. This year’s Tour de France was billed as a battle between Contador and Froome in the mountains and the Spaniard says that he will miss his fellow competitor when the mountains arrive.
"From a stage like this with the cobblestones, it is a nice show for television, but it has a pretty big risk," said Contador. "Froome was the favourite to get the win and is now out of the race. Of course you will feel sorry for him, because to prepare for the Tour there are many months of physical and psychological work and many sacrifices which are not seen.
"If you have so many falls, in the end and have to go home. I'm sorry for him and for the race, because it would have been a great show in the mountains but we will not see it in this year’s Tour."