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Team Katusha can’t be happy with how Wednesday’s stage 11 of the Tour de France unfolded. GC hopefuls saw major setbacks, and the Russian squad still hasn’t figured out a way to deliver sprinter Alexander Kristoff to a stage win.
The really bad news first: GC rider Jurgen van den Broeck is out of the Tour. The Belgian was third overall in the 2010 Tour and fourth in 2012. In an early crash on a windy day to Montpellier, the 33-year-old fractured his right shoulder.
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“It was really nervous in the beginning. I was fighting for my position in the bunch,” van den Broeck said. “After a left corner, something went wrong for another rider. He touched my front wheel, I flipped over my bike. I did not panic immediately as initially it felt like an ordinary crash, but when I started to ride again my shoulder was hurting a lot.”
Joaquim Rodriguez, who recently announced that he’ll retire at season’s end, also saw his GC hopes blown asunder, losing 1:09 to yellow jersey Chris Froome. Prior to that the Spaniard, who was third in the 2013 Tour, was sitting fifth overall. He’s now 12th.
The kicker is that Katusha would likely be content to see its GC goals fall short if it could win a few stages with Norwegian tough-guy Kristoff. Although the race’s top sprint teams — Etixx – Quick-Step, Lotto – Soudal, and Direct Energie, to name a few — weren’t represented in the late Sagan/Froome break, none could manage to pull back the 20-second gap. Instead, Kristoff had to settle for a middling fourth-place result, out-sprinting the bunch, and based on his disgusted reaction at the line, it was clear that he expected more.
It’s too soon to write off Katusha in this Tour. Rodriguez may yet win a stage (he’s done so three times before, twice last year), and Kristoff will have a few more sprint opportunities, notably stages 14 and 21. But for now, the team in red is likely feeling a bit blue.