Road To The Olympic Games

Chris Froome flies off road in Tour de France opening stage

Down in a ditch, Chris Froome had to hoist himself and his bike back up to the road in the opening stage of the Tour de France on Saturday.

British cyclist has bumpy start in pursuit of record-tying 5th title

Britain's Chris Froome carries his bicycle after falling into a ditch when crashing with other rider during the first stage of the Tour de France cycling on Saturday. (Jeff Pachoud/Associated Press)

Down in a ditch, Chris Froome had to hoist himself and his bike back up to the road.

It was a startling scene when the Team Sky rider tumbled into a grassy field in the opening stage of the Tour de France on Saturday in Fontenay-le-Comte, immediately putting his pursuit of a record-tying fifth title in peril.

Froome, though, is getting used to these sort of mishaps and challenges, whether that means recovering from crashes or clearing his name of doping.

"I saw a lot of crashes out there today. It's just one of those things. We always knew the first few days were going to be tricky and going to be sketchy. It's part of the game unfortunately," said Froome, who went down with about five kilometres to go as the sprinters' teams jockeyed for position.

With grass stains on his right shoulder and blood trickling down his right arm from a gash on his elbow, Froome got back up and crossed 51 seconds behind Fernando Gaviria, the Colombian who claimed the race's first yellow jersey with a commanding sprint victory.

"I'm just grateful I'm not injured in any way and there's a lot of road to cover before Paris obviously," Froome said.

Fans rejoice crash

When fans at the finish were informed of Froome's crash, many cheered. Froome, who was cleared of doping in an asthma drug case on Monday, was also jeered at Thursday's team presentations.

Froome was fortunate he didn't do more damage by avoiding a post near where he fell while riding at more than 50 kilometres per hour.

The Kenyan-born British rider also crashed on the opening day of the Giro d'Italia in May, while warming up for the Stage 1 time trial. But Froome eventually climbed back up the standings to win the Giro, his third straight Grand Tour title.

Froome is now aiming to join Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain as the only riders to win the Tour five times.

The three-week Tour ends July 29 in Paris.

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