Tour de France 2017: Froome loses 'rear-gunner' Thomas after brutal stage

Froome keeps lead but loses trusted lieutenant

Britain's Geraint Thomas has been forced to abandon the Tour de France after crashing on stage nine.

Porte's crash was the most dramatic as he clipped the grass verge on the inside of a bend on the lightning quick descent down the fearsome Mont du Chat, less than 25km from the finish. "Based on Richie's recovery, we will re-evaluate his program for the rest of the season in consultation with BMC Racing Team management".

It meant it was a bitter-sweet day for Froome who, despite increasing his lead and seeing several top rivals lose time, lost his chief Team Sky lieutenant Thomas and good friend Porte.

Porte was reportedly telling doctors tending to him that he was okay after the fall, and luckily could still move his body and no severe damage looked to have been done.

"I want to thank the other riders, who did not attack", he added, saying he did not see Aru attacking past him as he raised his arms to ask for assistance.

"I just had a bit of a wobble on a switchback", he said.

"I managed to catch the group in front of me after I crashed the second time - I was flying down the mountain", he said with a smile.

Stage honours were decided by a rare sprint finish between general classification contenders, with AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet fourth and Fabio Aru of Astana fifth.

After picking himself up, Martin finished in a group including Movistar's Nairo Quintana and Orica-Scott's Simon Yates, one minute and 15 seconds behind the leaders.

With four bonus seconds on the line for third place, Froome extended his lead over Aru to 18 seconds.

It was a fourth crash of the race for Thomas, who spent four days in the yellow jersey after winning the opening time trial in Dusseldorf last weekend.

But once the result of the photo finish came in, Barguil had another reason to cry: Uran was adjudged to have won by a whisker, and instead it was the 30-year-old Colombian who was left to celebrate a first Tour stage win of his career.

The numerous crashes led some to question whether the stage was too unsafe.

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