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PARIS (AFP) — Tour de France medical staff defended their decision to let Romain Bardet climb back on his bike and complete Friday’s stage 13 to Puy Mary after the French rider was seemingly dazed by a fall.
Doctors who examined the Frenchman as he rode on said he was fine, but his team, AG2R-La Mondiale, reported that after the finish he threw up and was groggy. He withdrew from the race on Friday evening, and the team cited a possible concussion as reason for his abandonment.
“All that counts for the riders is to get back on the bike and to start again. If they are able to do it, we eliminate a big head trauma right away”, the head of the Tour medical service, Dr Florence Pommerie told AFP at the start of Saturday’s 14th stage in Clermont-Ferrand.
“We follow the rider after his fall,” she said. “Romain Bardet didn’t have any initial loss of consciousness and the examination we did when we arrived was consistent.”
Video images of a dazed Bardet hit social media, and some wondered why he was allowed to continue to race.
Paul-Henri Jost, a neurologist who examined Bardet during the stage, said the Frenchman passed the concussion tests.
“He was back in the peloton and hung onto the medical car for a good 20 minutes after his fall,” Jost said. “He spoke clearly. He asked for painkillers and gave their names correctly. These are reassuring elements in a neurological examination”.
The Frenchman lost time and saw his GC ambitions falter on the stage. He finished 2:30behind winner and race leader Primož Roglič and was 11th in the overall standings. On the way back to the team hotel, Bardet showed more alarming symptoms.
“In the car on the way down to Clermont, he asked for a stop and threw up,” AG2R principal Vincent Lavenu told AFP on Saturday, saying that with team doctor Eric Bouvat he had already decided on a further examination. “We had already planned a scan. We went straight there. He was in trouble, he was more sluggish than usual.”
Pommerie said a delayed reaction was not unusual.
“You may well not have any strange symptoms at once,” she said. After the crash, Bardet tried to get up once, sat down and then, after a pause, climbed to his feet and rode off. “You are always a little bit groggy when you fall at 40 km/h,” said Pommerie. “We didn’t stop him from starting again because there were no clinical signs. What he told us was coherent and he was very careful to get back on the bike and take his place in the peloton”.