SARZEAU, France (VN) — It has been a recurring theme in this Tour de France: A late crash on an innocuous sprint stage deals a blow to the GC hopes of at least one rider.
On Tuesday, it was Ilnur Zakarin’s turn to give up seconds to rivals in the chaos of the Tour’s first week. The Katusha-Alpecin rider came home 59 seconds down on stage 4 winner Fernando Gaviria (Quick-Step Floors) and most of his GC rivals after falling victim to a late crash.
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“We were in the first 25 or 30 positions,” said Katusha sport director Dmitry Konyshev after the stage. “The crashes happen just really in the first 30 or 40 places.”
Five kilometers from the finish in Tuesday’s 195-kilometer run from La Baule to Sarzeau, a pileup toward the front of the pack saw several riders hit the deck. As the peloton regrouped and rolled on and the unlucky fallers regained their bearings and remounted, the cameras honed in on GC hopefuls Rigoberto Urán (EF Education First-Drapac) and Zakarin, left chasing the peloton.
Urán quickly found himself surrounded by pink EF jerseys. The Colombian was back at the tail-end of the pack in short order and crossed the finish line without any time lost.
Things didn’t work out so well for Zakarin, a bit farther back. He spent most of the finale chasing without team help, and ultimately shipped nearly a minute to his GC rivals. Communication issues seem to have been the main culprit; Konyshev pointed out that Zakarin should have come over the radio to notify the team of his travails, but didn’t.
“When [Zakarin] stopped, I think his reaction was the start immediately to try to come back. I heard only on the Radio Tour that he was involved in the crash,” Konyshev said.
With Marcel Kittel farther up the road, Katusha was setting up the sprint. Konyshev said he couldn’t hold up his riders without knowing if Zakarin even needed help.
“I came to him after about two and a half or three kilometers, and at this point, it was already too late to call the guys from the first group to wait for him,” he said.
Although Robert Kiserlovski eventually linked up with Zakarin to pitch in in the chasing effort, the damage was done.
Konyshev did not shy away from saying that it was Zakarin’s “responsibility” to say something on the radio, but also reasoned that it was easier said than done. “In a situation like this, it’s always easy to talk after,” he said. “During the situation, you just try to close the gap, close the gap, and then say nothing on the radio.”
On the bright side for Katusha, as far as Konyshev knew after stage 4, Zakarin had no injuries from the crash. The time lost was the main blow he sustained. Heading into Wednesday’s stage 5, he sits 1:51 down on the general classification, the combined result of Tuesday’s chaotic finale and a lackluster team time trial in stage 3.
Now comes the hard work of trying to make up for those losses.
Konyshev, for his part, did not seem particularly concerned just yet. Considering the chaotic nature of the Tour’s first week, early time losses are almost the norm. And while it was Zakarin giving up seconds on Tuesday, it could be his rivals on Wednesday or beyond.
“The first nine days are all like this. One time [it’s one GC rider], one time another,” Konyshev said. “At the end, when we go to the Alps, it will be more or less the same situation.”