"Christopher Froome was forced to abandon the Tour de France" -- contemplate the phrasing for a moment. On a nervous day in the rain, the accepted practice is to blame the 2013 champion and 2014 favorite for not having the wherewithal to finish one of the most grueling stages ever concocted by Tour organizers. And we knew it was going to happen.
From the moment the 2014 course was announced, it was clear that Stage 5 had the potential to be the most chaotic. The final 72 kilometers featured 15.4 kilometers of cobblestones, which are hell for cyclists. Haimar Zubeldia, 37 years old and presumably numb to anything that can happen on a road course at this point, said that the best strategy was to "hope not to have bad luck."
Froome, at 6'1 and 157 pounds, is seemingly well-suited for everything except for pavé, which require dumb strength and courage and little more. To throw this stage early in the Tour was akin to asking offensive and defensive linemen to engage in Greco-Roman wrestling before continuing on with the first quarter. It's animalistic and faintly sadistic fun for the rest of us, but only mildly relevant to the Tour as a whole.
The stupid thing is that Froome never even touched a cobble. He fell early in the race when he nicked a road construction sign, then again when his bike slipped with approximately 70 kilometers left in the stage, just before the first of seven sections of pavé (two were eliminated due to nasty weather, though that was consolation to nobody) began.
Froome was certainly hurting after taking a nasty fall in Stage 4. He was able to finish the stage, but had to undergo X-rays to determine that he had not broken any bones in his wrist. His first fall in Stage 5 was a bad omen of the misfortune that eventually caught up with him. Froome was shaky cycling back to the pack with the help of teammates. When he fell again, he didn't waste much time before climbing into a Team Sky car and slamming the door on the 2014 Tour de France.
Lars Boom won the day, and if you've never heard of him that's okay. He's a repeat national champion in the Netherlands, but has done little at the world level. Stage 5 was never about crowning a winner, anyway. It was about the carnage that would ensue. Our atavism has been satisfied as much as it can be in this sport, the headlines our taunt.
You were the sacrifice we demanded, Christopher Froome.