MARSEILLE, France (AFP) — Stage 5 of the 100th Tour de France, the second-longest in this year’s race, was uneventful for long spells before two crashes lit up the closing kilometers into Marseille.
The day will be best remembered for Mark Cavendish’s (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) victory in a sprint finish on the city’s seafront, although there was drama just before as a whole host of riders went to the ground just 200 meters from the finish.
That followed another pileup with 16km remaining that brought down as many as 15 riders, including polka dot jersey wearer Pierre Rolland (Europcar) and stage 1 winner Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano).
The German got lucky on Saturday’s first stage when he avoided the carnage of a crash on the way into Bastia before snatching victory in a sprint finish and seizing the yellow jersey.
Fast forward to Wednesday, and the Argos team star was far less fortunate.
“I got up to get back on my bike and I saw that my chain was stuck,” he said. “A BMC rider in front of me just hit the ground and I couldn’t get past him. Just before the crash I was talking to John Degenkolb, who was asking me what the plan was for the leadout, and then the BMC rider went down.
“It’s shit that it happened there. We tried to save our energy for the rest of the race, for the final.
“The opportunity was there, but I suppose I can be happy that I didn’t crash on stage 1, and tomorrow it’s flat and it’s a new race.”
Save for having a bit of skin torn off his left arm, Kittel came out unscathed and can look forward with optimism to Thursday’s sixth stage, a flat 176km ride from Aix-en-Provence to Montpellier.
Overall race favorite Chris Froome was lucky too, escaping the second crash near the line to complete a stage that saw his Sky teammate Edvald Boasson Hagen lose out to Cavendish on the line.
“Even if you’re at the front these days, it seems as if the crashes are happening right there, so you’ve definitely got to be awake all the time. But I managed to get round it,” said Froome.
Other riders, however, were not so lucky, and the official medical report issued at the end of the stage revealed a long list of injuries, some potentially serious. Most serious was Maxime Bouet’s broken arm, which forced him to abandon the race.
The Frenchman crashed late in the stage and will not continue, his Ag2r La Mondiale team confirmed.
“The x-ray examinations revealed an undisplaced articular fracture of the lower end of the left radius (forearm),” the team said in a statement. “This injury requires 45 days of immobilization to heal the fracture and unfortunately, Maxime has to leave the Tour de France route.”
Defending best young rider Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) suffered what he call “a stupid crash” while taking a bottle from teammate Steve Morabito. He was a little banged up, but escaped serious injury.
“I was grabbing a bottle from Steve Morabito and then we hit this left corner and people hit the brakes pretty hard,” said van Garderen. “I had one hand on the bars and lost control. It was completely my fault. Just a lack of focus.”
Van Garderen’s teammates Brent Bookwalter and Michael Schär both crashed in separate incidents, but claimed to only suffer abrasions and bruises.
Veteran Basque Haimar Zubeldia (RadioShack-Leopard) was diagnosed with a broken bone in his left hand after undergoing tests in a nearby hospital, while his teammates Andreas Klöden and former yellow jersey wearer Jan Bakelants were also knocked off their bikes.
The FDJ.fr team confirmed that French rider Nacer Bouhanni had been taken to the hospital for a check-up on injuries to his back, left leg and right shoulder.
Christian Vande Velde crashed in the same pileup that took down Kittel and Garmin team boss Jonathan Vaughters wrote on Twitter that the veteran American was “wait and see.”
“Christian has plates in his collarbone from previous injuries,” said Garmin team doctor Prentice Steffen in a press release. “After today’s crash, an ultrasound and x-ray show a blood clot in a neck muscle (left sternocleidomastoid) and a loosened screw in his clavicle plate. From what we can tell, it is possible that the screw may have jabbed a muscle. Preliminary x-rays do not show a fracture but it probably flexed a bit in the crash and disrupted a screw. Its an unusual injury and we will monitor him overnight and make a determination in the morning as to whether or not he will start the stage. Christian’s health is the most important thing to us, so we will evaluate him again tomorrow and determine next steps at that time.”
Garmin’s Tom Danielson, who finished eighth overall at the Tour in 2011, was in good spirits after the stage, despite taking knocks to a
shoulder, a leg and to his face.
“Landed hard on my right shoulder but seems ok. Can’t believe there was a crash in that finish!!!” he tweeted later, before adding: “There is no safe zone here.”
Garmin’s 2012 Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal was listed on the medical report following the stage, but his fractured rib occurred in a stage 1 crash on Saturday. The Canadian underwent an x-ray examination on Wednesday to assist team staff in determining treatment.
“I have had some discomfort since the crash I was involved in during Stage 1,” said Hesjedal. “A scan today confirmed a fracture so at least now we know what we’re dealing with. A lot of times with rib injuries fractures don’t show up right away so waiting until today we were able to confirm what’s going on. There’s not much you can do about a fractured rib except for deal with the discomfort so that is what I’ve been doing and will keep doing. I just hope Christian and everyone else who crashed today is ok.”
Three riders of the original 198-man field had already gone from the race before Wednesday, with Andrey Kashechkin (Astana) and Yoann Bagot (Cofidis) both abandoning on Monday before Ted King’s (Cannondale) Tour de France debut ended in controversial fashion on Tuesday after he missed the time cut for the stage 4 team time trial by seven seconds. That number is sure to grow in the aftermath of Wednesday’s crashes.
Officials’ medical report:
Zubeldia (ESP) 5th metacarpal fracture left hand (splint)
Noval (ESP) repair dressing left hand
Dupont (FRA) heartburn (gastric dressing)
Bouhanni (FRA) crash in finish; trauma to back leg and dermabrasion left and right shoulder (radio balance and normal echo). Stomach pain.
El Fares (FRA) left knee tendinitis (anti-inflammatory, analgesic)
Hoogerland (NED): sunburn forearm
Muravyev (KAZ): stomach pain, early gastroenteritis, headache
Bonnet (FRA): digestive disorders
Trentino (ITA) wounds right knee
Klöden (GER): superficial wound right calf
Vande Velde (USA): crash at finish; cervical contusion [Crash occurred earlier in stage 5 —Ed.]
Hesjedal (CAN) crash at finish; the sixth left rib fracture [Injury occurred in stage 1 —Ed.]
Bouet (FRA) crash at finish; non-displaced fracture left wrist (splint)
VeloNews.com editor Brian Holcombe contributed to this report.