BASTIA, France (VN) — World time trial champion Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was among the victims of an opening stage at the 2013 Tour de France that saw a fair share of favorites hit the deck in various crashes.
Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), Tejay van Garderen and Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), and 2012 green jersey winner Peter Sagan (Cannondale) were among the marquee names to crash in Saturday’s 213km first stage from Porto-Vecchio to Bastia.
Martin finished the stage, but was transported via stretcher from the team bus to a local hospital. The team announced afterward that he had suffered no broken bones, but had a concussion, a bruise on his left lung, cuts and scrapes to his chest, one hip, left knee and shoulder, and a deep wound on his left elbow.
“Tony Martin will join the rest of the team tonight after today’s examinations. Any decision on his participation at the second stage of the Tour de France will be taken after considering how the clinical situation evolves during the night,” the announcement read.
Things were grim for Omega Pharma, which also saw Gert Steegmans fall hard with 6km to go. The team went quickly from looking to win the stage with Mark Cavendish to seeing both Martin and Steegmans crash, jeopardizing both their team time trial effort and Cavendish’s lead-out train for the sprints and the green jersey.
Cavendish blamed the damage on the unfolding confusion as officials frantically scrambled to dislodge the Orica-GreenEdge bus that was trapped under the finish-line scaffolding.
“I didn’t crash. The guys behind me crashed,” Cavendish said. “What caused the problems was the changing the finish. We heard on the radio with literally 5 kilometers to go that it was [three] Ks, then it was the finish. It was just carnage.”
Pre-race favorites Contador and van Garderen also crashed, suffering cuts and scrapes that left them with minor bleeding, but major worries for their respective teams.
“We were doing our best to stay out of trouble, but you cannot avoid everything,” van Garderen said. “All things considered, I think I came away really lucky. All my joints are working, no bones are broken. I have a couple of scabs, but that’s about it.”
Contador also hit the deck, and crossed the line frazzled.
“I am scraped up on both sides, but I think it’s pretty superficial, and I hope that’s it,” he said. “Now I will put on some ice and try to recover. Sometimes you’re caught up in crashes. Everyone is trying to stay at the front.”
The riders’ qnerves were wound up as the peloton barreled toward the finish line.
Hesjedal, who suffered a harrowing crash at the Tour de Suisse in June and crashed out of last year’s Tour in the first week, got tangled up in a spill with about 10km to go.
“A few guys went into the barrier and I tried to avoid, but a few guys piled into me,” Hesjedal said. “Every day is dangerous. We are riding along on straight roads, and guys are going into the barriers. That’s bike racing.”
Hesjedal was paced back to the main bunch by Tour rookie Rohan Dennis, and avoided the ensuing chaos.
Adding to the tension was that the Orica-GreenEdge bus was stuck under the finish-line scaffolding as the peloton closed in. Officials frantically worked to extract the bus in time for the fast-charging bunch, then decided to relocate the finish line to 3km to go. Once the bus was extracted, they made the call to take time at 3km to go, but declare the winner across the original finish line.
It all left the riders confused, and some suggested the call to change the finish back to the original finish line provoked a crash with about 4km to go that saw several go down, including Sagan.
Huge crowds of rowdy Slovakian fans lined up around the Cannondale bus to cheer on Sagan, who has emerged as a national hero in his homeland.
Sagan suffered cuts and scrapes to one shoulder, but was not seriously injured.
“It’s going to take more than that to take out the ‘Hulk,’” Sagan joked, referring to his new nickname for the Tour. “It was a hard fall, but I am okay. It was chaotic. Tomorrow we fight again.”
Pre-race favorite Chris Froome (Sky) actually fell in the neutral zone when the peloton was rolling out of Porto Vecchio. In hindsight, Froome got through the day pretty well.
“If that’s the only crash I’ll have in this Tour, I’ll take it,” he said.
Medical report, stage 1
• Crash with 6km to go: Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), Janez Brajkovic (Astana), Tony Gallopin (RadioShack-Leopard), Murilo Fischer (FDJ)
• Crash at 190km: Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil), cuts to left elbow
• Others: Egoitz Garcia (Cofidis), major cuts to left knee, left hand; Jerome Coppel (Cofidis), hematoma to left hip; Geraint Thomas (Sky), Ian Stannard (Sky), trauma to sacrum, X-rays, but no fracture; Ted King (Cannondale), trauma to left shoulder, numerous cuts and scrapes; Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), serious cuts and scrapes, loss of consciousness, transferred to local hospital, initial scans reveal no brain injury