Froome still on top at Tour de France

If Richie Porte is to win the Tour his team-mates need to be around him more often in greater numbers and for longer argues Anthony Tan

Pre-race favourite Richie Porte of Australia has suffered a heavy crash in a descent during the ninth stage of the Tour de France.

Thomas also crashed out of the Giro d'Italia in May - caused by a police motorbike - on stage nine, when he was Team Sky's race leader.

Overall, Froome leads Aru by 18 seconds and Romain Bardet by 51 as two-times victor Alberto Contador of Spain cracked on the last climb and dropped out of contention.

However, Porte's BMC sporting director Fabio Baldato insisted the team had come prepared, particularly for the Mont du Chat climb and descent.

"Richie (Porte) was quite instrumental in slowing that group down, saying this is not the time to attack the leader of the race, so thanks to Richie and I hope he makes a speedy recovery". Organizers said he was conscious and speaking.

Briton Geraint Thomas has retired from the Tour de France after an injury. He held a 25-second gap as the yellow jersey group rode fast to the site of Porte's race-changing crash.

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The damage from a brutal stage took its toll: Porte and Thomas were just two of around 20 riders who crashed on the wet, narrow roads of the Jura.

"He (Porte) did it four times before the race, he did it in training, he did it in a race (the Criterium du Dauphine)".

It was Thomas's fourth crash of the Tour, having also gone down on the second, fourth and eighth stages. Dutchman Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) and Italy's Manuele Mori (UAE Team Emirates) fell inside the opening 10km and both were forced out, the former with a fractured vertebrae less than a day after he finished runner-up in Stage 8.

Although the group went with Aru, they neutralised the Astana rider, and allowed Froome to get back into the group.

Twice former victor Alberto Contador was one of the big losers on the day from the 181.5km stage from Nantua to Chambéry.

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