BMC Racing Team experienced mixed fortunes on Tour de France stage 9 today with Greg Van Avermaet sprinting to second to keep the yellow jersey at the finish line while Richie Porte was caught up in a crash during the opening kilometers and was forced to abandon the race.
It was a devastating start to the highly anticipated stage from Arras to Roubaix for BMC Racing Team with Porte involved in a crash, after less than 10km of the 156.5km course, that forced him to stop racing. A medical update will be provided when more information is available.
At KM 47.5 the race reached the start of the first of 15 cobbled sectors, totaling 21.7km, and a ten-rider breakaway had been able to open up a 3’20” advantage over the peloton.
Over the next 40km, the main bunch stuck together behind the nine remaining leaders with Greg Van Avermaet and his teammates keeping a watchful eye on the front of the race.
The action started to heat up after an increase in pace with 65km to go saw the peloton explode with small groups spread out across the road however, everything started to come back together around 5km later.
Van Avermaet, Damiano Caruso, and Stefan Küng were sitting in the first part of the peloton, two minutes behind the breakaway, as Tejay van Garderen worked with Michael Schär to make it back into the bunch.
Unfortunately, van Garderen crashed just a few kilometers later and although he was able to get back on his bike quickly, he lost contact with the rest of the field.
Just Damien Gaudin (Team Direct Énergie) and Reinardt Janse van Rensburg (Team Dimension Data) remained in front with 35km, and five cobbled sectors, to go with Van Avermaet and Caruso working at the front of the first chasing group.
With the last remaining rider caught, Van Avermaet was able to take maximum bonus seconds at the sprint with 18km to go before attacking on the penultimate cobbled sector alongside Yves Lampaert (Quick-Step Floors) and John Degenkolb (Trek – Segafredo)
The leading trio was able to quickly capitalize on the advantage they opened up on the cobbles and at the 10km to go mark, the gap to the first chasing group had risen to almost one minute.
From there, their advantage remained steady with the chasers struggling to close the gap heading into the closing kilometers of the day and eventually, at the flamme rouge, the gap still stood at 40 seconds.
With the finish line in sight, the games began with the three riders trying to anticipate the move of their rivals before a final sprint saw Van Avermaet digging deep to take second behind Degenkolb and extend his overall race lead to 43 seconds going into tomorrow’s rest day.
Quotes From the Finish Line:
Greg Van Avermaet: 
“After the crash, I just had to switch to trying to do my own race. It’s a bike race and it goes on so, I tried to do my best for the whole team and keep the jersey. The closer we got to the finish, the more I started believing and this result is a big disappointment for me. Maybe the race wasn’t long enough for me really. I have a good sprint after six hours and today it was only 3 hours 30 minutes. I tried to do my own sprint instead of waiting for him [Degenkolb] but next time, I will try again and try to beat him. I was really aiming for that win in yellow and it didn’t happen but that’s how it goes. Overall, I kept the jersey and made a great race out of the stage and this is also something. I was really happy with my shape and it’s been special to wear the yellow jersey.”
“Losing Richie was a big disappointment for the whole team because we were here to bring him to Paris. You have some bad luck one year and you normally come back and then everything goes well. But for this to happen two year’s in a row is sad for Richie. He was well-prepared and in good shape in Switzerland so we really believed in him. I wish him all the best in his recovery and hopefully, he is back soon. Now, we will try to make the most out of the second and third week. It will be a little bit more relaxed but we will try to do as good as possible.”
Sports Director, Fabio Baldato:
“I only know that Richie was taken to hospital by ambulance and it looked like it was his collarbone or his shoulder that was injured. It was really painful as he went down hard on his shoulder. We waited almost more five minutes and then the decision was made to take him to the hospital.”
“We left two guys waiting behind, Michael Schär and Simon Gerrans, and they were able to come back at which point we said let’s go for the stage win with Greg.”
“We’re obviously really disappointed today and frustrated about all the hard work we have put in until now. There was even no time to fight today because after 7km, Richie was involved in that crash. Of course, the bunch was really nervous and it happened just passing through a village. He crashed with all the team around him so we cannot say that he wasn’t there. Once again, we will try to keep looking forward to the end of the Tour and try to take some stages if it’s possible as the GC and podium is gone.”