Froome crashes; Schleck out as Tour enters France - KAUZ-TV: Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Froome crashes; Schleck out as Tour enters France

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(AP Photo/Christophe Ena) (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
(AP Photo/Christophe Ena) (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
(AP Photo/Christophe Ena) (AP Photo/Christophe Ena)
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LILLE, France (AP) - One former Tour de France champion dropped out of this year's race and another crashed but recovered as the cycling showcase got back on home turf Tuesday after a boisterous three-day start across the channel in England.

Defending Tour champion Chris Froome fell after one rider bumped another into the Briton's front wheel, sending Froome to the asphalt early in the 163.5-kilometer (101-mile) fourth stage from Le Touquet-Paris Plage to Lille Metropole along the Belgian border.

Crashes have already depleted the pack of two of its biggest names. Before the stage began Tuesday, 2010 winner Andy Schleck dropped out with injured ligaments in his right knee from a crash a day earlier.

And British sprint star Mark Cavendish quit the race Sunday after crashing in a final sprint in Stage 1, injuring his right shoulder.

Italy's Vincenzo Nibali is wearing the leader's yellow jersey for the mostly flat 163.5-kilometer (101-mile) fourth stage along France's border with Belgium.

Froome and two-time champ Alberto Contador are among the 20 riders who trail Nibali in the overall standings by two seconds.

Froome, the Team Sky leader, skinned up his left knee and left elbow and hurt his left wrist in the crash, but got back on his bike and was treated by race doctors before rejoining the pack.

"That must hurt," race doctor Florence Pommerie told French TV, adding that the injuries were mostly superficial and amounted to "essentially a few scratches."

An aching wrist could mean pain ahead for Froome, however. The pack rolls over nine patches of cobblestones in Wednesday's Stage 6, which could make for a joint-jarring ride and prevent him from keeping his hands on the handlebars.

Sprinter Marcel Kittel of Germany, who acknowledged that his job is easier without Cavendish in the race, sped to victory in front of Buckingham Palace on Monday, his second Tour stage win already this year. He is about 20 minutes off the overall pace, though.

Tour officials estimate that British fans made nearly 5 million individual visits to the route during the first three stages in Yorkshire, Essex and London, with some possibly attending more than one stage.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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