The two French captains hit the deck as a series of collisions wreaked havoc in the final kilometers that swept the winds from the stage to Provence.
It was Cavalli, Giro Don runner-up and one of the pre-race candidates, who got off first and came off at his worst in a crash that was horrific. With 25 kilometers left on the road, there was a leak in the peloton, and although it slowed down to avoid a buildup, the Italian was taken out from behind by another rider.
Australian National Champion Nicole Frane (Parkhotel-Valkenburg) was back on the set from a previous crash and apparently didn’t see the aftermath in front of her, cruising down the Cavalli and taking the Italian bike from under her.
Cavalli, who landed on her back, remained on the ground for a few minutes and then got up until she came up to continue riding. However, it was soon decided that she could not continue the race and stopped with tears on her face.
“It was a huge impact. It’s tough, we don’t want to play [around]Team manager Stephen Delcourt said emotionally after the stage.
“I hesitated and wanted to keep going but the team said no, we don’t want to play with the rider’s life. Cycling is just a part of life, not a priority.
“Okay, maybe we lose a battle for the race but the most important thing is Marta and we support her as a priority, and for the sport we come back stronger tomorrow.”
Delcourt confirmed that Cavalli was on her way to the hospital for tests that will reveal the extent of her injuries.
“It’s really hard to see pictures like that,” he asked. “Can you imagine if it was someone in your family when you saw that?”
“Marta was not in a good position, she didn’t want to take a risk at that time [of the race]. One runner came back after an accident, didn’t see Marta in the second crash, reached 50 km/h and boomed. I have no words. When you see pictures like this, it’s really hard.”
Less than five kilometers away, FDJ co-pilot Otrop Ludwig was on board, in another crash in Peloton. The Danish Champion was not seriously injured and was refinished to begin a desperate chase with his remaining teammates.
They never made contact with the main group, who herself finished a half-minute into a dangerously late break which included overall contenders Elisa Longo Borghini and Cassia Neviadoma.
Uttrup Ludwig lost about 90 seconds to the pair, 1:04 to pre-race favorite Annemiek van Vleuten, who finished the main race.