Stage 3 of the Tour de France threw a few wrenches in the plans of the racers. What started out as a classic day of Grand Tour racing descended into chaos as a crash with 65km to go took down not only race leader Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), but so many other riders that the race had to be stopped.
The reason for the neutralisation of the stage was not clear to those ahead of the double wrecks that delayed all available medical support. The race jury to stop the race while it was still all together, but confusion reigned up front.
Cancellara, injured, dropped out of the maillot jaune once the racing resumed, while Chris Froome (Sky) finished second on the stage behind Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and donned the yellow jersey.
John Degenkolb (Giant Alpecin)
"The crash was obviously really bad. I didn't see it, luckily I was in front of it. We didn't know what was going on at that moment. We were going really fast, and I thought 'that's a really hard crash'. We saw that the race was neutralised. It was super crazy. You don't know what's going on in the moment, it's not nice for anybody.
"It's so hard to describe - in a bunch like this everyone is so nervous and really wants to go for it. They have so much pressure from the outside. They want to go, but the race director says it's neutralised. We have to respect this. It was totally crazy. In the end it's like animals, one goes and the others want to follow. It was definitely right to neutralise the race and just calm down the situation."
Chris Froome (Sky), new race leader
"I support the decision of the commissaires – that was the decision they took on the road for safety reasons – to get medical attention to the riders. It was a bit confusing out there at first, and my sympathy goes out to all those guys involved in the crashes," Froome said.
"It’s very early days. That climb was only 1km long and I don’t think you can read too much into it. We’ve still got a long way to Paris. Every stage during this first week is like a one-day classic and the whole race could get turned on its head on the cobbles tomorrow, so let’s see what happens."
Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), stage winner
"It was a pretty normal day's racing up until the crash. I'm not entirely sure why they stopped the race at that point," Rodriguez said.
"We started at the bottom of the Mur de Huy, all of us in a very tough pace, I wasn't sure I could win, but I realized I had the chance and I accelerated. It felt as though it was the longest ever I've spent going up the Mur de Huy. It was a really tough stage today. I'll have to wait and see what happens in the following stages. For now. I've lost my fear."
Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin), abandoned after the high-speed crash
“I remember everything that happened in the crash. A rider in front of me went down and I tried to pass him on the right side but I was hit by one of the riders next to me and crashed head first,” he said via a statement from his team.
"I slid into the grass and dislocated my shoulder and probably fractured it as well. They immediately put it back into position but my Tour is over. I am very sad that what should have been a beautiful day became a disaster.”
Tejay van Garderen (BMC), third overall at 13 seconds
"I didn't even notice there was a crash. The team had me really well positioned. We were going 80-90km/h. I didn't hear anything or see anything. All of a sudden the cars came in front and told us all to stop. I didn't know why. I guess Oss went down and got a little hurt, but he was able to finish. It's good we have all nine riders together.
"I've done Flèche Wallonne a few times and never really contested the final. I was either working for a teammate or maybe making an early move. It was interesting to race with the front runners up the climb. It was hard."
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), eighth overall at 36 seconds
“The truth is that it became a really hard race and we had to go really deep. I could hardly move the bike. We have lost some time but we must remain focused and go day by day. I didn’t have a gear problem. Perhaps it was the heat, my legs were stiff. Some days you go well and and then there are other days,” he told Spanish radio after the stage.
"Things were going well, but it was a very fast race, at an impressive pace. The important thing was to avoid the crashes. Now it’s time to recover because tomorrow we expect a really tough day.
"When the neutralisation happened we had no idea what had happened, we didn’t know what had happened behind us in the race.”