Hesjedal bows out of Tour de France

Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal abandoned the Tour de France ahead of stage seven today.

Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal abandoned the Tour de France ahead of stage seven today.

The Canadian had been tipped as a contender for the yellow jersey, but sustained what his Garmin-Sharp team described as "a massive haematoma on his left hip and leg" on stage six and opted out of the race ahead of the 199-kilometre route from Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles.

Garmin-Sharp directeur sportif Jonathan Vaughters wrote on Twitter: "Hesjedal is not going to start. Sad, but he'll be back."

Hesjedal was involved in a major collision around 26km from the end of yesterday's stage to Metz, losing more than 13 minutes as a result.

It was a crash his British team-mate David Millar, riding in his 11th Tour, described as one of the scariest of his career.

Almost all of the Garmin-Sharp team were involved in the collision, with Tom Danielson abandoning as a result of the incident after dislocating his shoulder and suffering numerous other injuries.

Hesjedal had been the best placed Garmin-Sharp rider at the start of the day in 108th and his absence meant the team were set to revise their goals, with Irishman Dan Martin and Millar poised to be given opportunities to go for stage wins.

Martin, nephew of 1987 Tour winner Stephen Roche, is a climber and the 5.9km, category one ascent to the finish today was set to be his first chance, while the polka dot King of the Mountains jersey could also be a target.

Garmin-Sharp were reduced to a team of six when South Africa champion Robbie Hunter also abandoned.

Hunter wrote on Twitter: "Got stress fractures in a vertebrae. Been trying to ride through the pain but woke up this am & I'm battling to walk never mind ride.at this point I gotta worry about my health!"

Hesjedal and Hunter were among eight riders who finished yesterday, but did not start today, taking the total number of withdrawals to 16 after 198 riders began last Saturday in Liege.

Spanish team Movistar now have five riders after two more abandoned, two withdrew from Dutch squad Rabobank, Oscar Freire from Katusha quit, along with Amets Txurreuka (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Hubert Dupont (Ag2r La Mondiale).

After 40km a seven-man escape group had established an advantage of almost six minutes.

The best-placed rider in the breakaway was Christophe Riblon (Ag2r La Mondiale), who began the day in 55th place, five minutes four seconds behind race leader Fabian Cancellara (RadioShack-Nissan).

Riblon was accompanied by Chris Anker Sorensen (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff), Martin Velits (Omega Pharma-QuickStep), Michael Albasini (Orica-GreenEdge), Cyril Gautier (Europcar), Dmitriy Fofonov (Astana) and Luis-Leon Sanchez (Rabobank).

Anthony Delaplace (Saur-Sojasun) abandoned early in the day's stage, taking the total number of withdrawals to 17.

It was the most after seven days' racing since 1998, when the 17 withdrawals included the Festina team who were expelled following a doping scandal.

The escapees' lead was still over five minutes with 120km remaining of the 199km route.

With seven in the escape, world champion Mark Cavendish did not contest the day's intermediate sprint, which came 95.5km from the finish.

Orica-GreenEdge worked for Matt Goss, who began the day second in the points classification behind green jersey incumbent Peter Sagan.

Goss was clear and slowed down, but Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale), winner of three stages thus far, sprinted by him to lead the peloton over the line and consolidate his place in the maillot vert.

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