By Chris Carmichael
The first week of the Tour is always dangerous, and this year is proving to be no exception. Christophe Moreau has been hitting the ground like a paid-off prizefighter. Usually the peloton is somewhat nervous on the first two days, resulting in a few crashes, and then things calm down by this point. I am hoping people are getting their crashes out of the way early and the rest of the race will go more smoothly.
This year, the final kilometers of a few stages have included small roads and several tight turns. Almost the entire peloton is reaching the final kilometers en masse too. Without a team capable of dominating the front of these sprint stages, surges come from everywhere. Before you know it, you’re trying to span thirty riders across a one-lane country road that’s only big enough for 15. An unfortunate law of physics is that two objects can’t occupy the same space at the same time; somebody has to move. Oscar Freire, Didier Rous, and Christophe Moreau ended up in a ditch today because they just ran out of room.
The crash involving Rous, Freire, and Moreau had serious consequences. Rous is out with a broken collarbone, leaving Bonjour without one of their best hopes for a stage win. Moreau has taken an entire team’s worth of crashes so far. I wonder if the serious fall he took while motorpacing before the Tour affected his confidence on the bike. It is natural for riders to be a little skittish or hesitant after a big crash, but most people get over it pretty quickly. If these crashes are going to Moreau’s head, he will continue to fall over and over again. For his sake, he needs to figure out if his problems are bad luck or a lack of confidence, preferably before he gets hurt.
Oscar Freire fell hard on his back, and there is a chance he could have aggravated the old injuries he spent so much time recovering from. Even if he is okay, he completely missed out on points at the end of the stage. He is now 60 points behind Erik Zabel and Robbie McEwen (who are only separated by 4 points), and that is a huge deficit to recoup if he has any aspirations to wear green.
The world champion had already said his chances of challenging Zabel and McEwen for anything more than stage wins were pretty slim. The battle for the green jersey is going to be primarily between Zabel and McEwen, but if Friere is all right to continue racing, which I suspect he will be, he can definitely take another stage or displace points to affect the points competition.
As for Lance, he was caught up in a crash but fortunately not injured at all. He lost a little time on the yellow jersey, but not enough to cause serious problems. There is one more stage before Monday’s time trial, and staying upright is the biggest priority tomorrow.