Prigueux - Richie Porte and Geraint Thomas, two of the top
five contenders at the time, quit the Tour de France in pieces after crashing
on wet and slippery descents.
Both suffered a broken collarbone, while Australian Porte
also fractured his pelvis.
Three more riders quit the Tour after crashes on Sunday's
brutal ninth stage while Poland's Rafal Majka made it to the end but then
announced on Monday's rest day he would take no further part.
The numerous and often dramatic spills have sparked a debate
about whether the Tour's mountain descents are too hazardous.
Dan Martin, who crashed twice on Sunday's final descent of
the Mont du Chat climb, suggested organisers ASO are more concerned with the
beauty of the race and putting on a spectacle than riders' safety.
"They got what they wanted," after that costly
ninth stage, he said.
Nairo Quintana, three times a podium finisher on the Tour,
says the descents are simply too dangerous.
"It's not enough of a spectacle to see us on the edge
of life at more than 190 beats a minute on the climbs, (now also) on dangerous
descents where crashes happen every day," complained the 27-year-old
"We lost a team-mate (Alejandro Valverde) in a crash.
Sunday was difficult with those of Porte and Thomas, who fell four times
(during the Tour) - I hope they'll recover.
"I have a message to the organisers so that they think
about the cyclists.
"They care more about the spectacle than thinking about
the life of the cyclist.
"It's not just that they're getting hurt, you're
leaving your life out there.
"There are many crashes because of this.
"In Sunday's stage I escaped a crash which could have
been one of the worst in my career."
Two-time former Tour winner Alberto Contador was another who
had a spill on Sunday.
But the veteran has seen it all before and reacted more
soberly than Quintana, pointing out that the problem on the descents was
humidity due to rainfall rather than the slopes themselves.
"The slopes are the same as ever, although the rain
makes them more difficult," said Contador.
"But I don't think it's necessary to question the
Italian Fabio Aru agreed, saying it's all about the rain.
"It wasn't a question (on Sunday) of the stage being
dangerous or riders taking risks, but when it rains for the first time in a
long time, it becomes difficult and dangerous."
At Grand Tours, much of the focus is on the mountain stages
and the battle on the highest and steepest slopes, because that is often where
Tours are won and lost.
But descending is every part as much of a rider's skill set
as ascending, as race leader and reigning champion Chris Froome pointed out.
"I don't specifically train for descents but we do a
lot of training in the mountains and every time you go up a climb, you have to
come back down it," he said before the Tour.
Froome himself made a daring break on a descent on the
eighth stage last year to put some time into his rivals.
And on Sunday, Romain Bardet nearly pulled off a great
escape on a downhill section before being caught by a four-man team, including
Froome and Aru, on a flat drag to the finish.
Descents can be spectacular and fascinating but descending
is often an ignored skill, according to former rider and now team manager for
Directe Energie, Jean-Rene Bernaudeau.
"You need to use a better position to gain two or three
kilometres an hour," he said.
"It's free, it doesn't cost you any energy and so you
can get a lot of benefit from it."
He added: "You can't learn it, you're either born it or
For Belgian former world champion Philippe Gilbert,
"you have to have a sense of the trajectory, the right material and
But he added: "Many riders don't know how to descend
and don't get any better despite years of practice, sometimes that's a problem."