For Tejay van Garderen, today's stage 7 of the Tour de France ended as a disaster. The American lost 63 seconds due to a crash that also involved his key mountain domestique Darwin Atapuma who was forced to abandon the race.
A crash with less than 20 kilometers to go Friday at the Tour de France cost BMC Racing Team's Tejay van Garderen 63 seconds as well as the services of teammate Darwin Atapuma, who was too injured to continue. Meanwhile, two other teammates – Daniel Oss and Greg Van Avermaet – finished sixth and 10th, respectively, on the stage.
Van Garderen said he was not sure what caused the pile-up that involved him, Atapuma and several others as the peloton was climbing the Cote de Maron about 16 km from the end of the 234.5-km race.
"Someone swerved over and then it kind of felt like I was taken out a little bit from behind," van Garderen. "It is a tough blow, but the tour is long. The race changes and you saw some guys lose a minute yesterday in the crosswinds. So you just have to stay the course."
Van Garderen had road rash on his right knee and arm, but said he would "definitely be fine to start" Saturday. The extent of Atapuma's injuries was not immediately known.
First Oss and then Van Avermaet made separate attacks on the day's final climb, the Côte de Boufflers. Only Peter Sagan (Cannondale Pro Cycling) could follow Van Avermaet over the top and the two built a five-second advantage on the 5.5-km run-in to the finish. But despite Oss's best efforts to thwart the pursuit, the peloton caught the pair heading into the final kilometer.
"It was a pity Tejay crashed," Van Avermaet said. "We had to wait a little bit to figure out what we had to do: stop or keep riding. I hope it is not too hard for him and he can be good in the mountains."
Van Garderen received help from several teammates to chase back after the crash. Peter Velits handed his bike off to van Garderen while teammates Amaël Moinard, Michael Schär and Peter Stetina took turns pacing him back.
BMC Racing Team Sport Director Max Sciandri said he was not second-guessing the decision to keep Oss and Van Avermaet at the head of the race.
"I know it probably doesn't look good, but sometimes in that moment it is pretty hard to get on radios and stop a race that is going on," he said. "We had a good chance with Greg and he was going and we were chasing with the other guys with Tejay."
Matteo Trentin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) won the stage ahead of Sagan while Vincenzo Nibali (Astana Pro Team) kept the overall lead. Van Garderen is 18th overall, 3:14 back, as the race enters the mountains Saturday.
"The time lost is not as big as the crash itself," van Garderen said. "You just have to stay the course and keep fighting. This was definitely not a good day for the team. We were keeping Atapuma fresh and keeping him out of the wind. I really hope he is OK."
BMC Racing Team's Marcus Burghardt, whose status to start the stage was in question after injuring his shoulder in a crash Thursday, started and finished the race, leaving the BMC Racing Team with eight riders.
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