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Tour de France

Garmin’s perseverance proves Peiper right

American team stays aggressive after early crashes destroy GC and sprint hopes in France

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ANNONAY, France (VN) — Another Garmin-Sharp rider fell to the pavement on Friday — a familiar sight for the American squad at this year’s Tour de France. But this time, it was a victorious, exhausted David Millar, who, in one agonizing sprint, salvaged July for an American team that came into the Tour with lofty dreams but was grounded by crashes.

“It’s massive. It’s been a horrific Tour for us so far,” Millar said, just after sprinting Frenchman Jean-Christophe Peraud (Ag2r La Mondiale) for the win on stage 12, into Annonay. “I really wanted to do something… prove that we’re still here and show that Garmin-Sharp are one of the best cycling teams in the world.”

Garmin’s director, Allan Peiper, never put his head down. He pledged to fight very time journalists asked him what the team’s plan would be since losing Ryder Hesjedal and Tom Danielson a week ago today. He was good to his word.

“We’re going to make the best of it until the end of the race, and that’s it,” he told VeloNews earlier this week. “Other teams deal with mishaps and broken dreams. And we’ll get out there and fight until the end and see if we can knock off a stage.”

He’s right. Other teams suffer crashes, but everyone would agree that Garmin has endured a savage Tour de France.

Tyler Farrar couldn’t get off a clean sprint early in this Tour, crashing with regularity. At one point Farrar even tried to board the Argos-Shimano bus to confront Tom Veelers, who he felt had caused a crash. Team staff restrained him.

Tom Danielson — ninth last year at the Tour — crashed on stage 3 into Boulogne-sur-Mer, and finished well off the back, as he nursed a separated shoulder to the line. Christian Vande Velde also crashed that day, and chased in vain to regain contact with the group to try to limit his damages. He lost more than two minutes, ending his GC hopes as well.

And that was all before the “Metz Massacre,” a spectacular crash on stage 6 that tore through the main field at full-gas and extinguished the GC hopes of Ryder Hesjedal, who crashed hard on his hip, finished, but had to abandon the following day, ending the hope for a Giro d’Italia/Tour de France double.

“It was a disaster day for us today,” Peiper said after that stage. “The GC is over. It’s been very disappointing all around the last couple of days. It’s a week to forget.”

Danielson abandoned on the scene. A gritty Johan Van Summeren finished, his clothing held together only by strands, his skin a mixture of blood and the terrible blend of flesh, pavement and lycra.

Things were black and blue, and bleeding.

“We’ve lost most of our chances for everything in this Tour de France. We have a fighting spirit. That spirit is still there. We’ll see what happens tomorrow,” Peiper said at the time.

Garmin never did give up. The team has had riders in breaks since the crash, and though the team’s GC hopes were snuffed out early, the team’s six remaining riders have become stage hunters.

“We’re trying every day to do something,” Peiper said earlier this week. Sure enough, they did it today. No one would rule out tomorrow, either.