SESTRI LAVANTE, Italy (VN) — Fränk Schleck blames his 46-second time loss on Wednesday’s stage 11 at the Giro d’Italia on a mis-timed hand sling by Garmin-Barracuda’s Alex Rasmussen. The RadioShack-Nissan rider claims Rasmussen shoved teammate Christian Vande Velde towards the front of the peloton late in the race, bringing the Danish rider’s own bike to a near stop. Rasmussen denies the accusation.
“Just before the final, Alex Rasmussen gave his teammate Christian Vande Velde a big push to launch him up front,” Schleck explained on RadioShack-Nissan’s team website.
“While doing this he was practically going backwards himself and he was like a wall in the middle of the pack,” he added. “Incredible. I hit him from behind and stood completely still. Then I started chasing like hell and I made it back to the peloton that had already started the last climb.”
Shortly after regaining contact, Schleck was once again stopped by a crash near the back of the pack. “Normally, I would have been in the front before the crash, but because of Rasmussen’s move I was completely behind,” he said.
RadioShack director Kim Anderson was unaware of his team leader’s issues, which were not shown on television or broadcast on race radio. “It wasn’t until he was chasing for the second time that we found out, and then we could tell the other team riders to wait for Fränk,” Anderson said.
But the team could only limit the damage against a raging peloton with its eyes on a sprint finish.
In the end, Schleck lost 46 seconds to the main field, pushing him further behind his general classification rivals. He now sits 2:11 back on the pink jersey of Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) 1:54 behind Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin), 1:19 behind Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale), and 60 seconds behind Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD).
Rasmussen responded to the complaints on Thursday, speaking with feltet.dk. Calling the accusations “totally a lie,” he denied Schleck’s version of events, claiming instead that the Luxembourger had simply run into him going around a corner.
“The crash occurred on a bend shortly before we went out on the last lap,” Rasmussen told the Danish website. “He came and ran straight into the side of me and took my derailleur off. He’s actually the lucky one, because nothing happened to him and he could continue to ride away. I had to stand there and change my bike, so I could not help more on the stage.”
“I had just put Ryder near the front, and was falling quietly back in the pack,” Rasmussen added. “So I was completely relaxed. He comes riding up in a panic, because he is too far back. So it was his fault that he ran into me. But he is obviously concerned when he loses time.”
Garmin seems to have found some humor in the situation. “We’ve decided to install a construction truck-style reverse beeper on Rasmussen, for Fränk’s safety, now that the mountains are coming,” Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters joked on Twitter Thursday afternoon.