The sickening crash happened when William Bonnet seemingly caught the rear wheel of the rider in front, taking 20 or so down with him as the yellow jersey wearer was sent somersaulting through the air. Three riders were forced to abandon the race immediately with a variety of broken bones while a dazed Cancellara suffered for the remainder of the stage, finishing almost 12 minutes adrift and ending up in hospital.
A further crash shortly afterwards, again involving some 20 riders and this time marking the end of the race for Dmitry Kozonchuk, led to the unprecedented decision to stop the race for about 10 minutes. As the race organisers explained afterwards, it was not to give Cancellara the opportunity to rejoin the peloton but because the medical services were now spread across two crash sites and therefore unable to support the majority of riders who remained upright. As Team Sky’s Sir Dave Brailsford said: ‘Life is about taking a set of rules and applying them to a given circumstance. I am all for that kind of decision-making.’