ÉPERNAY, France (VN) — The Tour de France is making its way very gingerly towards this weekend after several crashes in the last few days. Tony Martin, Tyler Farrar, Mark Cavendish and Peter Sagan have all hit the pavement since the race started in Liège on Saturday.
This weekend will be a chance for the peloton to breathe a little easier. The riders – 194 remaining as of Thursday night – will breathe in the fresh mountain air in the Vosges, far away from the chaotic sprint finishes, and see the gaps in the GC widen.
“Everyone’s trying to be at the front, but there is no real right spot when there are just random crashes,” Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) explained. “You just get through each day and hope for the best.”
He crashed three days ago on the way to Boulogne-sur-Mer, but said that his suffering was nothing like his teammates’. Garmin’s Tyler Farrar crashed for a third day in a row, mixing with Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) and Tom Veelers (Argos-Shimano) yesterday.
Director Allan Peiper said at the finish that Farrar was in bad shape and that he had lost skin over most of his body. Speaking of sprints ahead of the stage, Farrar said, “These things happen. Everyone is trying to go into slots that are not there.” He was clearly more upset following the stage, trying to board Veelers’ Argos team bus after the finish.
Hesjedal must also worry about Tom Danielson, who separated his right shoulder in a crash Tuesday en route to Boulogne-sur-Mer.
“It just hurts a lot. The first day was little bit of a shock, just trying to get through it,” Danielson said. “You’ve worked for this since November. My goal now is just to finish each day.”
Sky’s mountain men will shine this weekend, working for Bradley Wiggins and giving Cavendish and leadout man, Bernie Eisel a chance to recover. They both crashed within three kilometers from the line Wednesday in Rouen.
“Bernie’s taken a big chuck out above his eye. He’s having stitches. [It] was quite nasty. Mark’s more superficial,” general manager, David Brailsford explained. “They’re going to be sore that’s for sure.”
Sky’s Kanstantsin Siutsou and Movistar’s José Joaquín Rojas abandoned. Siutsou fractured bones in his leg. Rojas underwent surgery Wednesday to mend his collarbone, fractured in three spots.
Aleksandr Kuschynski (Katusha) and Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) are pushing ahead with fractured scaphoids. Martin wants to race the time trial after the weekend. The team feels he no longer has a chance to win, but it’s an important test for the world champion ahead of the Olympics.
“To win the TT is really complicated, especially with a fracture. It’s not as if we will have him in 100 percent there,” Omega Pharma doctor, Helge Riepenhof told VeloNews. “These days you need to be 100-percent in shape to be able to win the TT at the Tour de France. But he wants to do a good TT to see how deep he can go and just to show that he’s ready for the Olympics in three weeks.”
Once a favorite for the stage, Martin will test his readiness for the Games in Besançon on Monday. What thing is certain: the peloton is ready to leave the chaotic opening week behind and head into the mountains.