Tour de Pain: Cyclist rides with broken pelvis

13:45, Jul 03 2013
Marcel Kittel
Marcel Kittel reacts as he crosses the line to win the first stage of the Tour de France.
Marcel Kittel
First stage winner Marcel Kittel (left) is congratulated by team-mate John Degenkolb.
Tour de France
The peleton sets out at the start of the first stage.
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Riders at the front of the peleton head up a rise.
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The peleton begins stage one in Porto Vecchio.
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Riders head past a beach in Porto Vecchio on the island of Corsica.
Alberto Contador
Alberto Contador of Spain rides with his Saxo-Tinkoff team.
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The Orica-Greenedge team bus collides with the finishing banner prior to the race arriving at the end of stage one.
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Jan Bakelants of Belgium and Radioshack Leopard celebrates on the podium as he wears the yellow jersey after winning stage two.
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Cycling jerseys are hung in a line to greet cyclists in the city of Corte during the156 km second stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Bastia to Ajaccio.
Tour de France gallery
The peloton rides through the countryside during stage two of the 2013 Tour de France, a 156KM road stage from Bastia to Ajaccio.
Tour de France gallery
The pack of riders cycles on its way during the 156 km second stage of the centenary Tour de France cycling race from Bastia to Ajaccio, on the French Mediterranean island of Corsica.
Jan Bakelants gallery
Jan Bakelants of Belgium and Radioshack Leopard crosses the finishing line to win stage two.
Orica GreenEdge
Orica GreenEdge riders head along the Promenade de Anglais during the team time-trial during stage four of the Tour de France.
Saxo Tinkoff
Saxo Tinkoff riders compete in stage four in Nice.
Nice beach
Riders head along Promenade de Anglais in Nice.
Team Garmin-Sharp
Team Garmin-Sharp rides compete in the 25km team time-trial fourth stage.
Team Lotto Belisol
Team Lotto Belisol head around the streets of Nice, in the south of France.
Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish celebrates as he crosses the line to win stage five of the 100th Tour de France.
Ted King
Cannondale rider Ted King speaks to reporters after Tour de France organisers pulled him from the race.
Chris Froome
Chris Froome leads Team Sky at the front of the peloton during the fifth stage.
Simon Gerrans
Simon Gerrans has the number on his back fixed by an Orica-GreenEdge team member.
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The main bunch passes by a moutain-side town in the French countryside.
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Tour de France spectators, dressed as superheroes Batman and Robin, run alongside riders.
Christian Vande Velde
Christian Vande Velde is treated after a crash during the seventh stage from Montpellier.
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Riders stack on top of each other after a crash on a small bridge during stage seven.
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The peloton heads through the French countryside.
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Riders head off on the 205km seventh stage from Montpellier to Albi.
Peter Sagan
Peter Sagan
Chris Froome
Chris Froome raises his arm after winning stage eight by 51 seconds.
Chris Froome
Team Sky's Chris Froome puts on the yellow jersey after stage eight.
Tour de France
Team Sky riders pass through the French countryside on stage eight.
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Team Omega Pharma-Quick Step readers read newspapers before the start of the stage.
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Team Sky, led by Richie Porte, make their way up an ascent.
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The peleton are cheered on by the crowd during stage nine.
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Stage nine winner Dan Martin of the Garmin-Sharp team crosses the finish line.
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Riders tackle the Val Louron-Azet pass during stage nine of the Tour de France.
Tour de France 2013
Ride set off for stage nine of the Tour de France.
Geraint Thomas
Team Sky's Geraint Thomas heads out on the 33km individual time trial.
Marcel Kittel
German Marcel Kittel, who won stage 10, relaxes before the start of stage 11.
Chris Froome
Yellow jersey holder Chris Froome races during the individual time trial.
Alberto Contador
Alberto Contador grimaces as he heads to the finish of stage 11.
Tony Martin
German rider Tony Martin climbs on the podium after winning stage 11.
Marcel Kittel
Marcel Kittel (right) beats Mark Cavendish across the line to win stage 12.
Chris Froome
Tour de France spectators hold a sign in support of leader Chris Froome.
Team Sky
Team Sky riders, including yellow jersey holder Chris Froome, lead the peloton.
Brett Lancaster
Brett Lancaster receives assistance from a crew member during the 12th stage.
Arthur Vichot
A banana hangs out of the back pocket of Arthur Vichot.
Daniele Bennati
Daniele Bennati of Team Saxo-Tinkoff gets in aerodynamic position during a descent on stage 13.
Jose Joaquin Rojas
Jose Joaquin Rojas takes a glance back at the chasing bunch.
Mark Cavendish
Mark Cavendish of Omega Pharmac-Quick Step raises his arms as he crosses the line to win stage 13.
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The Tour de France peloton head through a village during the 13th stage.
Alberto Contador and Michael Rogers
Alberto Contador (right) and Michael Rogers (left) of Team Saxo-Tinkoff chat with Team Radioshack Leopard's Haimar Zubeldia.
Matteo Trentin
Matteo Trentin reacts as he claims the 14th stage win for Omega Pharma-Quick Step.
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The breakaway group passes by a field during the 14th stage.
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The Tour de France peloton arrive at a village during stage 14.
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The 14th stage breakaway group ride through a feed station.
Arthur Vichot and Luis Angel Mate Mardonnes
Arthur Vichot (right) and Luis Angel Mate Mardonnes attempt to make a breakaway.
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The peloton rides past a field of sunflowers during stage 15 of the 2013 Tour de France, a 242.5km road stage from Givors to Mont Ventoux.
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Peter Kennaugh of Great Britain and SKY Procycling rides at the front of the peloton during stage 15.
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Yellow jersey holder Chris Froome approaches the finish line to win stage 15.
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Rui Costa of Portugal and Movistar Team tries to launch an attack at the front of the peloton during stage 15.
Chris Froome
Tour leader Chris Froome takes a sip from his water bottle during stage 16.
Rui Costa
Rui Costa's solo break paid off as he claimed the 16th stage.
Rui Costa
Team Movistar's Rui Costa grinds his way up an incline.
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Team Sky lead the peloton during the Tour de France's 16th stage.
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A spectator draws on the road during a mountainous stage.
Chris Froome
Chris Froome powers his way to victory in the 32km individual time trial, the 17th stage.
Mark Cavendish
Briton Mark Cavendish rides over a Union Jack painted on the road.
David Millar
Team Garmin Sharp's David Millar rides past spectators at the top of a climb.
Haimar Zubeldia
Haimar Zubeldia makes his way up a climb as heavy rain falls.
Tour de France spectators
Spectators often turn the Tour de France into a Halloween party.
Nelson Mandela
Tour de France riders wait behind a large picture of former South African president Nelson Mandela on his 95th birthday.
Andy Schleck
Team Radioshack's Andy Schleck speaks with reporters ahead of stage 18.
Chris Froome and Richie Porte
EXTENDING LEAD: Chris Froome gets a pat on the back from team-mate Richie Porte, who supported the Tour leader up the second l'Alpe d'Huez climb on Stage 18.
Christophe Riblon
Christophe Riblon of Team AG2R La Mondiale shows his exhaustion after crossing the line at the top of l'Alpe d'Huez.
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The view that greets riders near the top of the l'Alpe d'Huez ascent.
Rui Costa
Rui Costa holds up two fingers as he wins his second stage of the Tour de France.
Alberto Contador
Alberto Contador sprints to the line in stage 19.
Portugal spectator
A spectator holds a Portugal flag with 'Rui Costa' written on it.
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Riders in the peloton head up an incline during the 19th stage.
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Riders head up two major climbs during the 204km 19th stage.
Jack Bauer
Kiwi Jack Bauer is in agony after falling from his bike into a barbed-wire fence during the 19th stage of the Tour de France.
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Nairo Quintana of Colombia and Movistar Team celebrates winning stage 20.
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Chris Froome celebrates on the podium as he secures the leader's yellow jersey after stage 20.
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The pack of riders cycle during the 125 km stage from Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz.
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The pack of riders cycle during the 125 km stage from Annecy to Annecy-Semnoz.
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Chris Froome of Great Britain and SKY Procycling ride in the main pack through the streets of Paris.
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The main pack rides past the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.
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The Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysees Avenue are illuminated with the colour of Tour de France winner: yellow.
2013 Tour de France
The riders cycle on the banks of the Seine river past the Eiffel Tower on the final stage of the Tour de France.

The Tour de France is gruelling enough, with its punishing mountain climbs and brutal descents in a three-week pursuit of the feted yellow jersey.

But how about tackling all of that with a fractured pelvis?

That's the agonising situation Welshman and Sky team member Geraint Thomas finds himself in, following a spectacular crash near the finishing line during the opening stage of cycling's most prestigious event.

Geraint Thomas
AGONY: Geraint Thomas receives attention after a crash that left him with a fractured pelvis. He plans to continue on the Tour.

Thomas, a dual Olympic track cycling gold medallist, went over his bars and landed on his back on the narrow roads leading into Bastia, after the Australian team's Orica GreenEdge bus became lodged under a banner at the finishing line.

With riders bearing down, race organisers temporarily moved the finishing line back three kilometres before restoring the route once the bus was removed. There were several pile-ups amid the confusion.

Thomas, 27, underwent scans on Saturday night and was cleared to ride the following day.

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He climbed back into the saddle, only to endure what he described as "one of the worst days I've ever had on a bike", finishing 17 minutes and 35 seconds down on the leaders.

A further MRI scan on Sunday night revealed a small fracture to his pelvis.

But, in what sounds like a mind-boggling decision to most people, Thomas has vowed to battle on through the epic endurance event with a fractured pelvis.

On Monday, he needed help to lift his leg over his bike's crossbar before the start.

Even his mother thinks he's mad.

"I'm going to continue, to give it a good go even if my mum doesn't want me to," Thomas said following stage three of the Tour.

"I have not come here just to do a lap of France.

"I've done so much to lose weight and get fit for this.

"I'm not going to give up straight away.

"The experts have said I am not going to do any more damage by riding. It is just a matter of if it improves."

James Heathers, an applied physiologist at the University of Sydney, said Thomas' vow to battle on exemplified the single-mindedness of world class athletes compared to everyone else.

"It's very difficult for 'normal' people who don't have that mindset to understand how impossibly competitive and single-minded you have to be to succeed at something like this," Mr Heathers said.

He said he did not know the extent of Thomas' injury, and it was possible that "it may sound worse than it is". But world-class athletes were extremely driven.

He pointed to a scientific study, the Goldman Dilemma, carried out in the 1980s and 90s by American physician and journalist Bob Goldman.

In the study, Goldman asked world-class athletes whether they would be prepared to take a drug that guaranteed them an Olympic gold medal, but also would result in their death in five years.

Goldman reported that about half of the athletes surveyed would be willing to accept the gold-for-death deal.

"I think you have to understand the mindset of someone who's truly competitive," Mr Heathers said.

"For Thomas, it's not a matter of whether it hurts, it's whether it interferes directly with his ability to do his job in the team."

That is the sentiment that Thomas expressed following Monday's stage three.

"Like I said, it's the Tour. It's not your average race. I'm definitely going to keep fighting," he said.

"It felt a lot better today than yesterday and it felt a lot better [at the finish] than at the start today. But I've got a crack on my bone so it's always going to hurt."

Sky team principal David Brailsford praised Thomas' efforts.

"We all have different tolerances to pain but the determination and level of suffering required to ride on a course like this, with its twists and turns where you can never get into any kind of rhythm, was really considerable," he said.

"He suffered an awful, awful lot. He deserves every bit of recognition and support for his suffering."

Sydney Morning Herald