BOULOGNE-SUR-MER, France (AFP) —Team Sky suffered their first setback of the Tour de France Tuesday when Kanstantsin Siutsou abandoned during the 197 km third stage.
Siutsou, one of Sky’s support riders for team captain Bradley Wiggins, was one of several riders caught up in a crash just after the Cote de l’Eperche around 140km into the race.
The Belarusian, who fractured his left tibia and was set to undergo surgery, became the first of the 198-strong peloton to abandon this year’s race, which ends in Paris on July 22. But he was not alone.
A pileup on the next climb, the Mont Violette, caused the abandonment of Jose Joaquin Rojas (Movistar), who finished second in the green jersey points competition in 2011.
Team Sky chief Dave Brailsford admitted losing Siutsou, who was set to help Wiggins early on in some of the key mountain stages, was a setback.
But he said the team would fight on.
“It’s a setback but not a devastating setback,” said Brailsford after seeing another Sky rider, Edvald Boasson Hagen, finish runner-up on the stage to Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale).
“He’a a very good climber so he can do that first part in the key mountain stages. But to be honest, the climbing department, as it were, is probably where we’re at our strongest.
“It’s a real shame, but not the end of the world. It’s like boxing — as long as you’re still fighting you can knock the other fella out. That’s the approach you’ve got to take to it.”
Other riders caught up in the spill were American sprinter Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp) and Spaniard Pablo Urtasun (Euskaltel). Farrar would go on to crash again, but finished the stage. Urtasun likewise made it to the line.
In a Twitter post Garmin chief Jonathan Vaughters tried to put a positive spin on the incident: “Bad news is Tyler hit his nut pretty hard. Good news is it’s bigger than it used to be.”
Farrar’s teammate Tom Danielson also crashed, separating his shoulder. The team said it would decide on Wednesday whether he would start stage 4.
The third stage had been feared by a number of different teams and riders due to a succession of six small climbs, five of which came in the last 35km, on tight roads leading to the finish line.
Among the other victims were Giampaolo Caruso of Katusha, who injured his sternum, and Australian champion Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge) went over the handlebars and into a fence after he collided with a bike lying on the ground.
“A day to forget! I took a dive with 30k to go and had a barbed-wire fence break my fall,” said Gerrans, who had been one of several favorites to prevail on the uphill finish.
Overall, the Tour de France medical press release listed 11 casualties, but only the two abandonments.
The others will live to fight another day, but the memory of stage three might take a while to fade.
“I have not suffered that much in a loooong time,” said New Zealand’s Greg Henderson on his Twitter account.
“Pain for hours to get popped at 400m to go. What a stressful day.”