Road Cycling

Tour de France Crashes | 7 of the Worst Involving the Yellow Jersey

Some of the worst Tour de France crashes from the men in yellow...

There aren’t many things more savage than a savage Tour de France crash. They’re rough. They’re wild. They’re incredibly painful. Tour de France crashes are serious stuff.

Of course, they’re also all the more important when it’s the man in the yellow jersey who’s sent down. Those are the crashes that make an impact on history; that really make a difference in the standings.

Here are some of the worst Tour de France crashes by riders who have been leading the Tour at the time of their downfall, and wearing that coveted Maillot Jaune…

1) Wim van Est, 1951


Dutch rider Wim van Est became the first man from the Netherlands to ever put on the yellow jersey when he first wore it in 1951, and he was still wearing it when he fell down a rocky ravine on a perilous mountain climb.

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One of the most terrifying moments in Tour history, the fall came as a result of a flat tyre. The ravine Wim fell into was 70m deep, and as was the trend of the time, van Est was not wearing a helmet.

Though he got back up and on his bike, and wanted to carry on with the race, he was persuaded to cycle instead to the hospital.

2) Bernard Hinault, 1985


Greg LeMond had raced hard to ride ahead of Bernard Hinault, the four-time Tour de France winner who was gunning for his fifth title. LeMond had already finished when, as the gloriously 80s newcast above shows, Hinault was involved in a shocking crash.

The French Hinault was still counted as a finisher as his crash was within 1km of the line, and he was escorted to a hospital as soon as was possible.

Amazingly, Hinault recovered and rode on despite a broken nose, winning a record-fifth TdF in the process.

3) Joseba Beloki, 2007


Spanish road racer Joseba Beloki wasn’t wearing the yellow jersey when a patch of melted tarmac caught his wheel during a high speed descent and launched him off his bike, but all-round man of the people Lance Armstrong was on his wheel, and he was in yellow.

Beloki, in second place behind Lance in the overall, would fracture his femur, elbow and wrist. Lance meanwhile would take on some cyclocross for what would become one of the more memorable detours in Tour de France history before rejoining the pack on the road.

4) Tony Martin, 2015


German rider Tony Martin was in yellow after six stages of the 2015 Tour de France when he crashed out to leave eventual winner Chris Froome in first place.

Martin had a heavy fall just 900m from the finish line in Le Havre after clipping the back wheel of the rider he was tailing, breaking his collarbone and sending him home for surgery.

5) Fabian Cancellara, 2015


Tony Martin wasn’t the only Tour de France leader to be launched out the race by injury in 2015 – and compared to Swiss rider Fabian Cancellara’s crash, Tony’s collarbone doesn’t looks so bad.

After being involved in a mass pile up on stage three of the Tour, Fabian broke his back for the second time in three months… and went on to finish the stage anyway.

6) Chris Boardman, 1998


British number one Chris Boardman crashed out of the Tour de France in brutal fashion while leading in 1998, being taken to hospital for a precautionary brain scan directly after the incident.

The front wheel of Boardman clipped the rear of teammate Frederic Moncassin, and sent him bellowing into a wall to the left of the road on stage two of the race as it passed through Ireland.

Though Boardman asked immediately after the accident if he could get back on the bike and finish the race, he was advised to go to hospital and was forced to abandon the Tour with a head injury.

7) Luis Ocana, 1971


Luis Ocana had ridden eight minutes ahead in the yellow jersey ahead of Eddy Merckx in the 1971 Tour de France – an astonishing accomplishment on stage 11 – but as both competed against each other on the Col de Mente, there was a terrible crash.

Merckx attacked as he descended, but lost control in the stormy conditions and skidded into a wall. Ocana, wearing the yellow jersey, could not avoid Meckx and became brutally involved in the collision himself.


While Merckx was able to get up and away quickly, Ocana could not release his cleats quick enough and was hit by the chasing racer Joop Zoetemelk. The Maillot Jaune was screaming with pain and though he eventually recovered, he could not complete the Tour.

The following day, Eddy Merckx refused to wear the yellow jersey in honour of Ocana.

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