LIÈGE, Belgium (VN) — Swiss hard-man Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) pulled the plug on the Tour de France after crashing while wearing the race leader’s yellow jersey Monday afternoon.
The high-speed incident occurred with around 20 others, 55 kilometers from Huy, Belgium, and caused two fractured vertebrae for Cancellara. He struggled to finish the stage, 11:43 behind winner Joaquím Rodríguez (Katusha), and lost the yellow jersey.
He and the team hoped he could continue, but after a high 24 hours before, his Tour ended on a low. In a press release later, Trek Factory Racing announced the bad news.
Cancellara suffered “Two transverse process fractures in two vertebrae bones of the lower back,” read the press release. It was the same injury that forced him out of the E3 Harelbeke in March and ended his spring classics campaign. “But this time the L3 and L4 vertebrae on the right side were the culprits, not the L2 and L3 on the left side he injured in Harelbeke.”
Cancellara wrote the news on Twitter and said it was “a huge disappointment.”
“This is incredibly disappointing for me,” Cancellara added in the press release.
“The team was on a high with the yellow jersey and 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.
“It was very hard to come back in shape after my crash in Harelbeke and getting the confidence. The yellow jersey gave me a huge boost for the cobblestone stage tomorrow.”
Cancellara came into the Tour, aiming to return to the top after a disappointing spring campaign and help team leader Bauke Mollema. He fell just short behind Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) in the time trial on day one in Utrecht, but bounced back well with a sprint for third in Zélande on Sunday. The bonus seconds on offer earned him the yellow jersey.
“The next hope was the cobbled stage to Cambrai,” general manager Luca Guercilena said at the Trek bus before taking Cancellara to the hospital.
“Right now it’s quite complicated that he could even continue; crashing at 80kph is nothing that can allow you to go [fast on the cobbles].”
Cancellara aimed to win the cobbled stage to Cambrai on Tuesday. The stage covers some of the same pavé sectors that he used to win three Paris-Roubaix titles.
The crash was a sour end for Cancellara who first held the yellow jersey in the Tour de France 11 years ago, in 2004, when it began in Liège. He donned the jersey again and won eight stages, but this yellow jersey was special for 34-year-old ‘Spartacus’ since the close of his career is around the corner.
“Now, to obtain results is harder than it was before,” Guercilena told VeloNews Monday morning.
“Now, he appreciates victories even more. To obtain results is harder than it was before for Fabian [Cancellara]. We truly enjoyed the moment yesterday. We were all happy.”
Cancellara said that the 2015 Tour de France could be his last. His contract with Trek runs through 2016, and Guercilena explained that he should ride until the end.
Even with the unexpected crash, Guercilena said, “Fabian still has some goals to reach before he retires.”
Cancellara looked ahead rather than dwelling too much on the disappointment of abandoning the race. “I guess I have to keep the positive,” he said, “look forward to the second part of the season.”