Van den Broeck withdraws from Tour with injured knee

Belgian rider injured his knee in the pileup that occurred near the finish line in Marseille

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AIX-EN-PROVENCE, France (AFP) — Belgian rider Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol), tipped as a candidate to finish on the Tour de France podium, was forced to withdraw from the race before Thursday’s sixth stage.

His team confirmed that Van den Broeck would not take part in the sixth stage from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier after suffering a knee injury when falling in a crash in the final kilometer of Wednesday’s ride into Marseille.

Van den Broeck, 30, has twice finished fourth in the Tour, in 2010 and 2012.

However, the Belgian was also forced to pull out of the 2011 Tour following a fall.

Van den Broeck’s withdrawal follows that of Frenchman Maxime Bouet (Ag2r-La Mondiale), who fractured a forearm in the same crash on Wednesday.

Mid-stage casualties

Home hopes in the Tour de France took a blow later on Thursday when Nacer Bouhanni ( abandoned the race during the sixth stage from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier. The 2012 French champion pulled out after failing to recover from injuries suffered during a fall in the final kilometre of Wednesday’s fifth stage into Marseille.

His team later confirmed that the 22-year-old had been taken to the hospital for a check-up on injuries to his back, left leg and right shoulder.

Competing in the Tour de France for the first time, Bouhanni was unable to keep pace with the peloton during the 176km ride to Montpellier on Thursday and took the decision to come off his bike with 95km of the stage still to go. Before Wednesday’s fall, Bouhanni had already been struggling with a stomach bug.

Meanwhile, Sweden’s Frederik Kessiakoff (Astana) also succumbed to injuries suffered during a fall on Wednesday, leaving his team down to just seven riders already.

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What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.