SAN DIEGO, July 6, 2015 – A crash-marred race and the first serious injuries of the 2015 Tour de France made for a rough stage 3 in Belgium. Anxious teams poured on a lot of speed as the first climbs of the Tour approach in an effort to gain ground for their GC contenders.
The result was a huge crash in the middle of the peleton, followed by a second crash on the road ahead. Rider William Bonnet of FDJ went down and caused a massive chain reaction involving nearly the entire Lotto team and yellow jersey leader Fabian Cancellara of Trek Factory Racing.
The current best young rider, Tom Dumoulin of Giant-Alpecin, and Australian Simon Gerrans of Orica-GreenEdge and Bonnet were the first three riders forced to quit the race due to their injuries. The veteran, nicknamed “Spartacus,” managed to get back on his bike and finish 12 minutes behind the leaders, willing himself through obvious pain.
See a video recap including the crash here.
Due to the extraordinary circumstances of the two crashes at high speed close together and the strain on the medical responders, the race was neutralized to allow the injured riders to return to the peloton. The first King of The Mountains climb was removed from the race. Twenty-five minutes after the crash, race officials got the stage restarted with 31 miles (50k) to go.
Team Sky put the hammer down, with Tinkoff-Saxo and then Astana hot on its wheels, all working for their leading contenders Chris Froome, Alberto Contador and Vicenzo Nibali. Sky and Tinkoff-Saxo ran the show up the Mur de Huy, holding off the other main threats to their riders.
Froome and Contador hit the challenging final climb and accelerated, but they were both left behind by Joaquim “Purito” Rodriguez of Spain for the Katusha team on the last stretch to the finish line to win the stage.
Rodriguez said of his victory, “It’s the fruit of a phenomenal team work. I’m very happy. It’s a fantastic mental booster for all of us … I’m not surprised that Froome and Contador couldn’t follow me because this finale suits me at perfection. I knew I could win, but it’s true that in the last 100 meters I was pedaling with my ears. A victory like today’s is a kind of unforgettable event.”
Rodriguez said the first week of the 2015 Tour is all about being smart. “What happens this week has nothing to do with with what can happen in the other two weeks. Experience, strength and resistance will prevail,” said Rodriguez.
Tony Gallopin of Lotto-Soudal stayed close, but it was Froome who managed to catch Rodriguez right at the line for second place on the stage. Thanks to the six-second time bonus, Froome gained 11 seconds over Nibali and Nairo Quintana and 18 seconds over Contador. It put Froome back into the yellow jersey for the first time since he won the Tour in 2013.
American Tejay Van Garderen stuck with the leaders, very much in the hunt for the overall race lead, closing the distance to just 13 seconds off the lead in third place.
Van Garderen considered the day a big success for him. ““It was another hectic day as we knew it would be. We saw pretty bad crashes out there and a lot of confusion … I didn’t notice there was crash until all of a sudden cars told us to stop … We’ve got our nine guys together and they did the perfect job of keeping me safe,” he added.
Van Garderen says Tuesday’s stage 4 will be a tough one. “Tomorrow is going be like the last of the mini-monuments. We had the crosswinds, the Ardennes classic, now the cobbles. Everything got all right so far but we must keep calm. It can change tomorrow. We have to stay focused.”
Rodriguez wins the first King of the Mountains jersey based on the final climb to the finish. Andre Griepel keeps the green sprinters jersey winning the interval sprint. Due to Tom Dumoulin’s pulling out of the race, the best young rider’s white jersey went to Peter Sagan, with Nairo Quintana and last year’s contenders Roman Bardet and Thibaud Pinot in hot pursuit of the prize.
It’s still unknown exactly how many riders will start stage 4 Tuesday; at press time there were four official withdrawals. Many including Cancellara are no doubt still assessing their condition and will hold out until they are forced to make the call in the morning. Stage 4 includes stretches of cobblestones, the worst possible timing for those hurting after today’s chaos.
UPDATE: At 3:51 p.m. ET, Fabian Cancellara announced he would withdraw from the Tour after a medical exam revealed broken bones in his lower back. “Just left the hospital with a huge disappointment. Tour de France 2015 is over. Broke some bones in my back again as in spring,” Cancellara confirmed on his Twitter account.
A disappointed Cancellara later said, “The team was on a high with the yellow jersey and we were very motivated to defend it. We have had a lot of crashes and injuries since the start of the season, and we finally had a great 24 hours but now it’s back to bad luck. One day you win, one day you lose.”
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is president/owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego. 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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