MONTAUBAN, France (VN) — The 2016 Tour de France didn’t start the way Brent Bookwalter would have liked.
Just hours into his fourth-career Tour start (and his first since 2013), the BMC Racing veteran was on the ground in a high-speed crash involving Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). Both were left with serious injuries.
To make matters worse, Tinkoff officials put the blame on Bookwalter, when it was clear that it was Contador who took out Bookwalter. (Tinkoff sport director Steven de Jongh later apologized via Twitter.)
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With the Pyrénées looming, Bookwalter is steadily recovering, and hoping to hit his stride just in time to help GC captains Tejay van Garderen and Richie Porte.
“I am still trying to recover from the crash,” Bookwalter said Wednesday evening. “I hit pretty hard. I am feeling better each day, but still trying to be conscious of the healing my body needs to do, and the energy that it takes and the long race we have ahead.”
Despite the rough start, Bookwalter is happy to be back at the Tour. With BMC’s deep roster, it’s always a big fight to make the Tour nine. When the team first came across to Europe in 2009, Bookwalter was one of the team’s main riders. As the squad expanded, signing such riders as Greg Van Avermaet, Philippe Gilbert, and van Garderen, earning a spot on the Tour squad became an intense fight.
As he usually does, Bookwalter takes a tempered, almost philosophical view of his return to cycling’s biggest race.
“It’s really nice to be back at the Tour,” he said. “It’s been a few years since I have been back, but I think that has only served to strengthen and grow that hunger.
“The Tour is such a massive and intimidating event that sometimes I think it is good to have a year or two off in between,” he continued. “I feel I have really bolstered my reserves over the last two years, and I am ready. I am ready to be the best teammate I can be and also just do my best performance for myself — whatever that is.”
Bookwalter was key member of the 2011 team that made history with Cadel Evans, the first Australian to win the Tour. He was often Evans’s roommate, and learned what it takes to win the Tour both on and off the bike. He’s hoping to use that experience to assist van Garderen and Richie Porte this month.
“I think the experience of having won the Tour with Cadel in 2011 is really helpful. One of the best things we did was not get too far ahead of ourselves,” he said. “We were just really focused on business as usual each day, focusing on each day one at a time, the best way that we could get through each stage. I think that served us really well, so I think us four will be pushing and supporting that mentality here with this team.”