After battling his way through the 18th stage of the Tour de France Thursday, despite sustaining potentially serious injuries in a crash, Lampre’s Damiano Cunego has pulled out of the race, according to team sources.
“It’s a miracle I finished this stage,” said the Lampre rider, who came over the finish line with blood dripping from a wound under his chin and injuries to his chest and thorax.
The former Giro d’Italia champion suffered his third crash of this year’s race when his wheels got caught in a rut in the road early on the 196.5km ride from Bourg d’Oisans in the Alps to St. Etienne.
Left with a bloodied chin that required stitches, and chest and thorax problems, the diminutive Italian repelled calls by his team managers to pull out. But after a visit to a local hospital late Thursday, Cunego and his team that he should not continue.
Thanks to the support of his team, Cunego battled on to finish inside the cutoff limit for late arrivals at 20 minutes and 12 seconds behind stage winner Marcus Burghardt (Columbia).
Cunego said part of the reason he was determined to beat the time cut was to make sure the four Lampre teammates who accompanied him also stayed in the race.
“I want to really thank my teammates — they waited for me and helped me back, although at one point I wasn’t sure of finishing within the time limit,” he said.
“One of our team managers suggested I should just pull out. I didn’t want to as that would have risked my teammates missing the time limit as well.”
Cunego was taken to hospital for a scan on his injuries. The mishap meant he dropped from 14th place overall to 20th at 25:48 behind race leader Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank), but Cunego opted not to continue after consulting with doctors on Thursday evening.