MARSEILLE, France (VN) — Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) survived a crash in the final kilometers of Wednesday’s Tour de France stage 5. He hit another rider’s bike and came down with several, including Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp).
“I’m OK, I think it’s just superficial skin stuff, I saw the doctor and checked it out,” Bookwalter told VeloNews.
“I think it was Gert Steegmans I clipped a wheel with while I was taking a drink, and that was it. I rode the last 15 kilometers, everything’s moving, I’ll just be a little sore and crusty tomorrow.”
The American hit the deck near 16 kilometers to race on the uncategorized Col de la Gineste. He survived, but the incident underlined the high-stakes first week of the Tour de France.
In 2011, he not only survived, but also helped Cadel Evans win the race overall. The team assigned him to the same role this year, helping Evans and Tejay van Garderen.
BMC general manager Jim Ochowicz watched Bookwalter talk to journalists and get in the bus. He was pleased he came out of today with only scratches so that he is able to continue servicing the team’s leaders.
“He’s coming along well,” Ochowicz explained.
“It was just keeping the guys fed and getting them water today. Cadel needs drinks, Tejay needs drinks; someone has to come back and get them. He’s in that mode right now, and he’s doing a good job.”
A safer second week
The Tour de France faces another likely sprint finish Thursday in Montpellier and a medium-mountain stage Friday in Albi.
Saturday’s stage, the first in the high mountains, should add order to the classification and help calm nerves. For Ochowicz, that is important because along with Bookwalter, Michael Schär and van Garderen suffered crashes today. Both riders are also fine, but it is a reminder that the Tour can be dangerous.
“The second week will already be safer because 10 or 15 riders are eliminated by then, that makes a big difference,” Ochowicz said. “Then people get dropped in the mountain stages and it thins out; it turns into a different style of racing. You’re not fighting for positioning, you’re holding it.”
Bookwalter added that this first week is the most dangerous of the whole cycling year.
“We race more days so there’s a great chance of crashing in the Tour de France, but in the first week, it’s probably the most dangerous week of cycling,” Bookwalter said.
“There’s so much stress and so many things going on, you have the sprinters, GC guys and the climbers all fighting for the front.
“Usually once we get into some big climbs and get some big time gaps, then it calms down a little bit. Still, though, it’s pretty stressful. The first week also the worst in my experience.”