SAN DIEGO, July 22, 2015 – It was a heartbreaking day for American Tejay Van Garderen, Team BMC Racing and their fans at the 2015 Tour de France.
Sitting in third place with a podium finish in sight, Van Garderen was forced to abandon the Tour a few miles past the midpoint of Stage 17. He had apparently been suffering from a respiratory infection but had managed to keep it in check until today, when headaches added to his misery according to BMC’s physician.
Van Garderen had to abandon on the same stage in 2013 after a rest day. Although it seems counter intuitive, sometimes the body simply rebels over getting back on the bike once it’s had a break. Van Garderen finished fifth in 2012 and 2014; he was gunning for his best finish ever.
Meanwhile, a breakaway group of 28 riders got in front of the peloton, including Peter Sagan of Tinkoff Saxo who is still looking for his first stage win. The overall leaders were content to let them go, staying together and warily waiting for the inevitable attacks on the yellow jersey of Team Sky’s Chris Froome in the attempt to gain some time on the first Alpine stage.
The attacks began from Alberto Contador of Tinkoff Saxo, who has the most time to make up among the overall leaders, but he was reeled back in. It was all for nothing anyway when Contador crashed on a tricky descent. He got back on the bike and had to chase the leaders the rest of the way to the finish, losing over two minutes.
Froome, followed by Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde of Movistar, joined by 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali, was able to hold off repeated attacks by Quintana and Valverde.
After the stage, Quintana said he preferred to play it safe on the descent, and was more concerned about neutralizing any attack from Contador versus gaining time on Froome to solidify the position of his teammate Valverde. “Climbs will be longer and harder. I’ll have to attack from further out. We’ll keep attacking. Our team is very strong. Our goal remains the yellow jersey,” said Quintana.
German cyclist Simon Geschke of Giant-Alpecin proved to have the will and strength today among the breakaway riders. He pushed up the Col D’Allos and put time on American Andrew Talansky and French rider Thibaud Pinot, who crashed on the downhill side, to win the stage.
Froome and Quintana stayed right where they were at the start of the day, 3:10 apart. With Van Garderen out, Valverde moved into third place, 4:09 back. With Contador slipping back to fifth place, 6:40 behind, the beneficiary was Froome’s teammate Geraint Thomas of Sky. He is 6:34 back, amazing to consider since he crashed into a telephone phone on Stage 16 Sunday, losing barely a minute. Nibali has climbed up into seventh place, eight minutes back. It is a disappointment for him but it’s good to see him continuing to fight to improve his place nevertheless.
Sagan has a lock on the green sprinters jersey, as does Quintana in the white jersey as the best young rider. Froome retains the polka dot jersey, being worn by second place Joaquim Rodriguez.
Day 2 in the Alps will be another day where two races will unfold. First is the race for a stage win and a last grab for glory on this year’s Tour. Second is the battle among the overall contenders still standing for a place on the podium in Paris. If Nairo Quintana is going to make any headway on Chris Froome, he needs to do it soon.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Follow the Tour de France daily in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +
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