EPERNAY, France (AFP) — Dutchman Tom Veelers has called for calm from rival sprint rival Tyler Farrar after the American’s angry reaction to his fourth crash in six days at the Tour de France.
Garmin sprinter Farrar was one of several riders to tumble around 3km from the finish line of the 196km fifth stage from Rouen to Saint-Quentin on Thursday.
The American finished battered and bruised and had to be restrained by a team employee when he went to Veelers’ Argos-Shimano team bus to remonstrate with the Dutchman, whom he accused of bringing him down.
Veelers, however, believes Farrar was simply a victim of one of the many incidents that conspire to make the bunch sprints one of the most dangerous parts of bike racing.
“I can understand when you crash you’re really upset about it, but I think when he sees the pictures he’ll know what happened,” Veelers said at the start of the sixth stage between Epernay and Metz.
“I was sitting there and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD) was steering in and I think Tyler broke his front wheel on the rear derailleur of Petacchi.
“In the sprint it’s very hectic and everybody’s fighting for his place. Nobody does such things on purpose, and he knows that as well.”
For Farrar, usually known for his calm demeanour, it has been a tough Tour de France so far having suffered crashes in stage three and stage five. The Washington native refused to address the press on Friday at the stage start and set off for the sixth stage silently.
With Garmin giving him little support for the bunch sprints as they try to keep men fresh for Canada’s Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal, Farrar has struggled to challenge for the coveted sprint wins. Hesjedal crashed, however, on Friday and lost more than 13 minutes on the way to Metz.
So far, André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Mark Cavendish (Sky) and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) have won the race’s four sprint stages, with Greipel taking two and Sagan winning Friday.
Overall, Cavendish is the leading sprinter of the current Tour de France crop with 21 stage wins to three for Greipel and Sagan.
Veelers, meanwhile, has taken over his team’s sprint duties after teammate Marcel Kittel quit the race Thursday due to a stomach virus. He has come up with a third and fourth place, but is planning to spend Saturday’s first climbing stage with the sprinters’ grupetto.
“It’s too bad that Marcel had a problem with his health but it’s given me my chance and I’ve been encouraged by my performances,” Veelers told AFP. “We had no plan B, we never thought Marcel would fall ill. It’s really too bad.”
He added: “I’m in good shape so I’m looking forward to Saturday’s stage. I just hope to be in the grupetto.”