Tour de France 2018: John Degenkolb wins as Greg van Avermaet extends lead
John Degenkolb won a dramatic ninth stage of the Tour de France that saw Richie Porte abandon and Greg van Avermaet extend his overall lead in a chaotic race across the cobbles.
Four-time winner Chris Froome crashed but recovered to finish with the other main general classification contenders.
Porte was forced out of the race with a fractured collar bone after crashing before the cobbles arrived.
Trek Segafredo's Degenkolb outsprinted Van Avermaet and Yves Lampaert to win.
That trio broke clear with 20km to go and, although Van Avermaet had to settle for second, the Belgian now leads Team Sky's Geraint Thomas by 43 seconds in the yellow jersey.
Degenkolb was forced to lead out the sprint but the German had enough power to hold off Van Avemaet and Lampaert and claim his first Tour stage victory.
The 156.5km stage across the north of France contained 15 cobbled sections, with Froome tumbling over his handlebars after hitting team-mate Gianni Moscon, who fell on the entrance to the eighth sector.
However, with 45km to go at that point, the Team Sky leader had enough time to rejoin the main group and is now up to eighth overall, while fellow Briton Adam Yates, riding for Mitchelton-Scott, is ninth. They are both one minute and 42 seconds behind BMC Racing's Van Avermaet.
'Everyone said I was done'
Degenkolb has pedigree on the pave. He won Paris-Roubaix in 2015, the famous one-day cobbled classic known as the 'Hell of the North', and this stage followed a similar route.
However, he has struggled for form since nearly losing a finger after being struck by a car during a training ride with his then Giant-Alpecin team-mates in January 2016.
He was in tears after securing his biggest win since that accident, dedicating the victory to a friend who died last year.
"This is pure happiness. I was chasing this victory for so long, I've been through a lot," he said.
"Everybody said I was done after the accident, that I would never come back, but I said I needed to get one really big victory for my friend."
More heartbreak for Porte
This was the latest in a sequence of Grand Tour disappointments for Porte, who also crashed out of last year's Tour on stage nine, fracturing his collar bone and pelvis on a high-speed descent.
The Australian, who saw his attempts to win the 2015 Giro d'Italia and 2016 Tour ended by mechanical issues and illness, fell with a big group of riders just 10km into the stage and was led to the side of the road in tears, supporting his right shoulder.
Having won the Tour de Suisse this year, Porte was among the favourites for the podium in Paris but, at 33 years old, he is running out of time to put together a Tour challenge free of bad luck or bad days.
There was more misfortune for BMC as Tejay van Garderen, who should assume the team leadership in the mountains, also crashed and could not chase back on, falling from third to 30th overall.
Bardet clings on
It was a fraught day for all the favourites, but most will know it could have been worse.
Aside from Porte, the only other main contender to lose out was Rigoberto Uran, the Colombian crashing at about 30km to go and unable to rejoin the main group, losing one minute 28 seconds to his rivals.
AG2R La Mondiale's Romain Bardet had three punctures, including one with just 6km to go, but chased back on each time, despite Froome putting in a brief dig at the front late on in an apparent attempt to distance the Frenchman, who lost just seven seconds on the line.
Mikel Landa also lost seven seconds, having crashed while trying to take a drink from his bottle before being paced back by his Movistar squad as their other leaders, Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, finished safely in the main bunch.
Ireland's Dan Martin, who crashed heavily on Saturday's stage eight, came through unscathed, even managing to grab a bonus second.
The Alps beckon
Monday is this Tour's first rest day, with riders back in action on Tuesday in a 158.5km stage from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand, marking the first of three stages in the Alps.
In his stage-by-stage guide for BBC Sport, Mark Cavendish said: "It's going to be the first fight between the general classification guys but I don't see it playing a big factor in the overall result at this stage of the race."
Stage nine result
1. John Degenkolb (Ger/Trek-Segafredo) 3hrs 24mins 26secs
2. Greg van Avermaet (Bel/BMC Racing) same time
3. Yves Lampaert (Bel/Quick-Step Floors)
4. Philippe Gilbert (Bel/Quick-Step Floors) +19secs
5. Peter Sagan (Svk/Bora-Hansgrohe) same time
6. Jasper Stuyven (Bel/Trek-Segafredo)
7. Bob Jungels (Lux/Quick-Step Floors)
8. Andre Greipel (Ger/Lotto-Soudal) +27secs
9. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor/Team Dimension Data) same time
10. Timothy Dupont (Bel/Wanty-Groupe Gobert)
General classification after stage nine
1. Greg van Avermaet (Bel/BMC Racing) 36hrs 7mins 17secs
2. Geraint Thomas (GB/Team Sky) +43secs
3. Philippe Gilbert (Bel/Quick-Step Floors) +44secs
4. Bob Jungels (Lux/Quick-Step Floors) +50secs
5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa/Movistar) +1min 31secs
6. Rafal Majka (Pol/Bora-Hansgrohe) +1min 32secs
7. Jakob Fuglsang (Den/Astana) +1min 33secs
8. Chris Froome (GB/Team Sky) +1min 42secs
9. Adam Yates (GB/Mitchelton-Scott) same time
10. Mikel Landa (Spa/Movistar)