Ouch! Today’s stage resembled a crash highlights reel, with riders experiencing ridiculous injuries due to crashes that are sure to have an impact on both the general contention and day to day racing the remainder of the tour. Here’s a quick rundown of what we saw:
1. A breakaway composed of a close to perfect set of riders in Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil), Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank), Sandy Casar (FdJ), Juan Antonio Flecha (Team Sky) and Niki Terpstra (Quick Step) managed to sneak away very early. Only Voeckler, Sanchez and Casar managed to stay away until the end. Terpstra was dropped, while Flecha and Hoogerland had their share of problems…
2. What’s up with support vehicles in the race this year? Earlier, Saxo Bank’s Nicki Sorenson was hooked by a photographer moto. Today, Flecha and Hoogerland were the victims of one of the most bizarre incidents ever seen in the tour, when a car driven by members of France 2/3 television swerved to avoid a tree, smacked in to Flecha, who in turn crashed in to Hoogerland, who went careening in to a barb wire fence. That they both got back up to finish the stage is a testament to how tough those two are. Assuming they’re still riding, they’ll both be wearing red numbers on Tuesday in reward of their joint reciept of today’s fighting spirit award. Hoogerland will also don the polka dot jersey of the mountains classification.
3. The well formed break, the chaos of the crashes, and the subsequent slow-down imposed by Garmin-Cervélo’s Thor Hushovd led to Thomas Voeckler and his break compatriots putting over 4 minutes in to the peloton, and Voeckler in the yellow jersey. Voeckler has 1:49 over Sanchez, and 2:26 over Evans. Will that be enough time to let him carry the Maillot Jaune through Thursday’s Bastille Day celebrations? He’s a better climber than he gets credit for, so we’re thinking its likely.
4. With today’s loss of Omega Pharma-Lotto’s Jurgen Van Den Broeck to a broken shoulder blade and ribs (!) and Astana’s Alexandre Vinokourov to a broken pelvis and femur (!!), the tour has lost 5 valid GC contenders. It’s beginning to seem that GC may be more a war of attrition than anything else. Vino and Van Den Broeck’s crash was a particularly unsettling one that came at the front of the peloton, a place they likely thought themselves safe from crashes. We love a good race, but be careful out there guys! We’d rather you duke it out in the mountains than leave blood all over the French countryside.
5. Did the GC contenders make a mistake by letting Sanchez go in the break today? He was 11th in the Tour de France last year, and 10th in the Vuelta. Barring the off-day in the mountains he usually experiences, could he be a serious contender at this point? Teammate Robert Gesink hasn’t been looking great, and lost a few more seconds today over some of the other favorites – will Rabobank be pondering a leadership change?
6. Anyone still unsure if Gilbert is going for the green jersey win? With Van Den Broecke out, will the team through all of its weight behind him and his quest?
7. Finally, with the loss of Van Den Broeck, Whit has gone on record as rooting for Basso. His Velogames team suggests that Basso will now abandon. We apologize in advance for anyone who selected him for their team.
With tomorrow comes a rest day for the riders, but nothing of the sort for us at Pavé! We’ll have some interesting content for you, so make sure to stop by. Don’t forget to let us know what you thought of today’s stage in comments below!