Saturday, 7 July 2012

Tour de France: Pre-Mountain Time Gaps And Broken Bones

6 Stages in, not a mountain climbed and already some huge time gaps appearing. Thanks to a massive crash on yesterdays stage 6. The flattest stage of the Tour has destroyed the podium hopes of some and damaged others. The general classification has been truly scrambled, with many riders withdrawing from the race following some horrific injuries...

From Hubert Dupont of AG2R was one of the seriously injured,suffering a fracture of the right distal radius and a fracture in the first lumbar vertebra, as well as a severely sprained left ankle. He will be off the bike for a minimum of 45 days, the team reported. Maarten Wynants, who was in an early crash, sufferied two broken ribs plus a puncture lung. The Rabobank rider finished the stage, but was taken to hospital where he had immediate surgery. He must stay there at least five days. Garmin-Sharp have lost two riders, with one questionable. Tom Danielson is out with multiple injuries including a separated left shoulder, sprained neck, chest contusions and multiple extensive deep abrasions.Both Johan Van Summeren and Ryder Hesjedal finished the stage. Van Summeren suffered a sprained right shoulder and upper back as well as multiple abrasions and is rated as questionable for today. Hesjedal has a massive hematoma on his left hip and leg and has pulled out of the race. These riders are hard, indeed Wout Poels got back on his bike and rode a further 10km before abandoning with a ruptured spleen and kidney, bruised lungs and three broken ribs. Ouch.

Whilst the crash caused some riders some pretty nasty injuries, the accident also caused some major splits in the General Classification. Whilst both Tour favourites, Bradley Wiggins and Cadel Evans finished together at the front having kept out of trouble, a big bunch of contenders came in well over two minutes down including Valverde, Frank Schleck, Michele Scarponi and Pierre Rolland. Robert Gesink finished over 4 minutes down and Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal came in 13 minutes down but has since abandoned.

If it hadn't been for the likes of Dennis Menchov, Van Den Broeck, Vincenzo Nibali and Samuel Sanchez finishing in the front group having escaped the crash and not losing any time to Wiggins, I would have said the Tour de France could have been more or less over with a straight two way fight between Wiggins and Evans dragging on for another two weeks in what could have resulted in a very dull edition of the Tour de France. As it stands though, there are still plenty of riders in with a shot.

Today's stage 7 sees the first Mountain Top finish of the tour, which ends with a 6km category 1 climb with sections as steep as 13%. Not a long climb but counteracted by its steepness this climb certainly won't be a decider, Evans and Wiggins won't feel too much under threat here. However in the wake of yesterdays events this could make for a very entertaining stage as some of the climbers try to claw back the time they lost yesterday on the final climb. Nibali could have a go here, having stated that he's not very impressed with Wiggins in the mountains and that it's Cadel he's worried about but the finish also suits a rider like Samuel Sanchez who may be allowed to marginally escape on the finish as he's 40 seconds back on the GC but expect riders like Rolland and Frank Schleck to put in plenty of attacks here in a desperate effort to remain in with a General Classification shout...

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