Alberto Contador's absence 'changes everything' on Tour de France
Top-rated Spaniard pulls out with a broken shin bone after crash, opening up the advantage for race leader Vincenzo Nibali and others
The retirement of Alberto Contador from the Tour de France has changed the dynamics of the race, according to Australian Richie Porte.
Everyone was expecting the Spaniard to launch an attack on race leader Vincenzo Nibali and start trying to claw back the time he had lost on last Wednesday's cobbled stage.
But instead he broke his shin bone in a crash on a fast descent and after gamely trying to continue, abandoned around halfway through Monday's gruelling 10th stage from Mulhouse to La Planche des Belles Filles.
Contador later revealed that he came a cropper because he was trying to eat. "I grabbed a [nutritional] bar, I had only one hand on the handlebars and I hit a pothole," he said.
"I'm sad and disappointed, a lot of effort and sacrifice has been ruined."
"It's a shame to lose Alberto like that. I hope he's okay," said Porte, the new Team Sky leader since reigning champion Chris Froome left the Tour last Wednesday after breaking his wrist and hand in crashes.
"It's going to definitely change the dynamics of the race," Porte told ITV4. "It would have been a harder finale if Tinkoff-Saxo had've been there. We'll take it day by day and I think we're in a pretty good position going into the first rest day."
Porte is second overall at two minutes, 23 seconds after finishing seventh on Monday's 161km stage that included seven categorised climbs. He could not match stage winner Nibali's attack on the final climb, but gave up only 25 seconds.
"I was the only one who responded when Nibali went, but I guess that's racing. I felt good today, but it's not great to be towing everybody to the line," he said.
"If Vincenzo goes, I guess you have to respond. He's got enough time already, so I didn't really want him to get any more."
As others stayed in Porte's wheel he was forced to lead the chase, but as he closed in on the line, five riders accelerated past.
Yet the 29-year-old Tasmanian's performances over the last couple of days have instilled belief in his teammates.
He was fourth on Saturday's eighth stage, giving up just four seconds to Nibali and seven seconds to Contador after the Spaniard's acceleration up the final climb.
"Richie looked strong. He was fighting for the wheel and was motivated," said Welsh teammate Geraint Thomas.
"All we said to him at the bottom was to get stuck in and go as deep as he could and see where he ended up.
"Obviously, being the leader in Team Sky brings with it a certain pressure, but we didn't put any on him within the team and we're happy to ride and get stuck in for him. Whatever will be will be."
The biggest news of the day came halfway through the stage as the Tour lost its second star performer in under a week.
Following the withdrawal of reigning champion Chris Froome last Wednesday after breaking his left wrist and right hand in a succession of crashes over two days, it was Contador's turn to fall badly.
Contador headed straight to the medical bus when arrived at the finish line for an X-ray.
"Alberto has a broken tibia. It's not a bad fracture but he needs surgery," the Spaniard's Tinkoff-Saxo team boss Bjarne Riis said.
Nibali said he had been lucky to avoid the Spaniard when he fell.
The Italian said for a few seconds he was "scared" that he would go down too.
"I was behind him, but I avoided it," said Nibali. "It was a descent, he had been behind me and I had left two or three metres space in front to be careful.
"He came past me 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."