July 14, 2014 – Two-time winner Alberto Contador pulled out of the Tour de France on Monday after crashing badly on the 10th stage. The Spaniard’s withdrawal was the second major abandonment of the 101st edition of the Grande Boucle following that of reigning champion Chris Froome last Wednesday.

AFP/Yuzuru Sunada

“Alberto has a broken tibia. It’s not a bad fracture but he needs surgery,” the Spaniard’s Tinkoff-Saxo team boss Bjarne Riis told journalists. “He’s in a lot of pain and is getting stitches.”

After pulling out of the race, Contador went for an X-ray in the Tour’s medical bus.

“Mentally he’s destroyed, of course. He was in the shape of his life. This was his Tour,” Riis said. “It’s a mess. We were here to win the Tour de France. He’s in super good condition, never better. It’s a big, big pity.”

The departure of the two pre-race favourites left Italian Vincenzo Nibali in a strong position and he regained the yellow jersey by winning Monday’s 161.5km mountainous stage from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles. The Astana team leader, who had begun the day in second behind Frenchman Tony Gallopin, now leads Australian Richie Porte by 2:23 with Alejandro Valverde in third at 2:47.

The 31-year-old Contador suffered a nasty gash to his right knee and had blood pouring down his leg as he received lengthy treatment by the side of the road.

“He came past me (on a descent) and I would have followed him because there was a climb coming up but the moment he passed me, I don’t know how, but he fell in front of me,” explained Nibali.

“It was incredible, he rolled around on the ground. We were going at 60kph.”

Contador’s knee was patched up by the race doctor and he changed bikes and a shoe before continuing the race. He had lost around four minutes on the peloton by this time, after which Astana took over pace-setting at the front.

Despite five of Contador’s Tinkoff-Saxo teammates dropping back to help pace him up the Col du Platzerwasel, he started losing more time.

Around 15km later and about halfway through the stage, Contador shared a hug with chief lieutenant, Australian Michael Rogers, before stopping by the side of the road and climbing into a team car. Visibly in pain, he was in floods of tears.

Froome posted his commiseration on Twitter, saying: “Big loss for the TDF today. Recover well @albertocontador & I hope to see you at the Vuelta.”

Straight after news of his abandonment filtered through to the peloton, Astana seemed to ease up and the escape group in front started to increase their lead that had been coming down.

Last Wednesday, Briton Froome crashed twice before climbing off his bike and quitting the Tour. The 29-year-old Team Sky leader had already injured his wrist the previous day in a crash and an MRI scan on Thursday showed he had fractures to his left wrist and right hand.

Froome’s super-domestique, Porte, took over the Sky leadership from Thursday and now appears to be Nibali’s major competition.

Portugal’s Tiago Machado, who started the day third overall, was another to crash on the descent of the Petit Ballon, although he had rejoined the peloton by the time it crested the Col du Platzerwasel with 90km left. However he suffered a terrible day and came home last, shepherded by teammate Andreas Schillinger, more than 43 minutes behind Nibali and more than 10 after the previous stragglers.

Organisers had initially, and erroneously, announced that he had abandoned the race.