Tour de France (st. 6)
All eight Blue riders suffer crashes at horrific stage six in the Tour, with Valverde losing two minutes after a massive pile-up with 25k from the finish in Metz
Misfortune for Movistar Team doesn’t find an end at the opening week of the 2012 Tour de France. After the abandon by Rojas following his crash on Tuesday, the eight survivors from the telephone squad fell into the two biggest crashes of stage six in the French stagerace, with 205 flat kilometers from Épernay to Metz. The first pile-up at km 35 affected Erviti, Rui Costa -with bruises in his back-, Valverde -with some wounds at his left side- and, most notably, Iván Gutiérrez, who took a big hit on his left elbow –already injured earlier in the year during the Ronde van Vlaanderen- and, above all, the right knee, with a huge traumatism that made necessary to move him into a near hospital in order to check on his injuries.
The worst part would arrive later at the biggest crash of the day, 25k from the finish, with only Rui Costa able to stay away -plus Gutiérrez, dropped before after another small crash in the day’s only col. His six teammates went down: Cobo and Kiryienka were the most ‘fortunate’ ones as they fell onto the grass –“I went flying, literally,” said the Belarusian- and over some other riders, respectively, so they avoided the feared wounds. Others couldn’t say the same: Vladimir Karpets suffered several bruises in his left side, already injured at another crash in Seraing; Rubén Plaza also had wounds all over his body; Alejandro Valverde sustained an important traumatism in his right thigh; and, most especially, Imanol Erviti, with serious wounds in his right side that also made avisable for him to be moved into hospital for correct treatment.
The incident left ahead only sixty riders -including Costa-, which contested the sprint finish with Peter Sagan (LIQ) grabbing the day’s honours for the third time. Behind, Valverde unsuccessfully tried to get back into the fore, helped by a huge work from Juanjo Cobo, and lost 2.05 over the main GC riders. The race will head directly into the mountains tomorrow with the final climb to La Planche des Belles Filles (Cat. 1; 5.9km, 8’5%), after 199 kilometers for stage seven starting at Tomblaine.
QUOTES / Alejandro Valverde: “At the first crash, the roads were wet, a Rabobank riders fell just ahead of me and the riders coming behind, including me, couldn’t avoid him. I got some bruises on the left side, but nothing important. At the second crash, we were riding really, really fast, everyone was trying to make the fore and things happened as you could expect from that. People is riding crazy, it seems like everyone is going to win the Tour. I was almost still already, but one rider couldn’t brake, made me fall and, when I was at the ground, another one hit me hard on my thigh. It was a sharp blow below my hip and that’s what hurts me the most, and surely it will do more when my body gets colder. This is the Tour: we know there are so many crashes and this time was mine, but everything is not lost either. More than the two minutes I conceeded, which is something I can’t do anything for now, I’m most worried about how I will get to sleep tonight and get up tomorrow. We know that there’s a mountain stage there and that makes everything more difficult, but there shouldn’t be any troubles to start and we will see how everything does.”