CHAMBERY (France) • Australian Richie Porte said he was grateful he did not suffer worse injuries in the high-speed crash on Sunday that forced him to abandon cycling's Tour de France.
The BMC Racing rider, a pre-race favourite, fractured his pelvis and collarbone when he crashed into a rocky wall on the descent from the Mont du Chat during the ninth stage of the three-week race.
"I'm in a fair bit of pain and it is a big disappointment to be honest," he said from his hospital bed in Chambery yesterday.
"I was in great form and the team were really strong around me as well. I think, after seeing the crash, it was lucky that I came away with the injuries that I have."
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Porte, who had been tipped as a potential race leader and a serious rival to defending champion Chris Froome, will not rush his comeback.
"I don't think I will be back on my bike for a good while now, but I think the team is good with that," he said.
The numerous and often dramatic crashes this year have sparked a debate about whether the Tour's mountain descents are too hazardous.
Dan Martin, who crashed twice on Sunday's final descent of the Mont du Chat, suggested the organiser ASO is more concerned with the beauty of the race and putting on a spectacle than riders' safety.
"They got what they wanted," he said after that costly ninth stage which saw five other riders quit the race injured.
Nairo Quintana, a three-time podium finisher on the Tour, said the descents in the high-profile race are simply too dangerous.
"They (the organisers) care more about the spectacle than thinking about the life of the cyclist," complained the 27-year-old Colombian.
However, two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador pointed out that the problem on the descents was humidity due to rainfall rather than the slopes themselves.
"The slopes are the same as ever, although the rain makes them more difficult," he said. "I don't think it's necessary to question the course."
German Marcel Kittel claimed his fourth victory in this year's Tour when he powered to an impressive Stage 10 win in a bunch sprint yesterday. His compatriot John Degenkolb was second and Dutchman Dylan Groenewegen finished third.
Britain's Froome finished safe in the bunch to retain the overall leader's yellow jersey.
It was Kittel's 13th Tour stage win, taking him one ahead of German Erik Zabel's record of 12.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
TOUR DE FRANCE
Stage 11: Singtel TV Ch112 & StarHub Ch212, 7pm