MONTPELLIER, France (VN) — Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) finished stage 6 of the Tour de France on Thursday, despite severe pain resulting from a late crash on Wednesday outside Marseille. The American is suffering from a collection of somewhat strange ailments, including a blood clot in his neck and a loose plate screw in his collarbone.
“I’m really proud of the guys and especially of Christian for their racing today,” Garmin director Charly Wegelius said in a press release. “He is still in pain and dealing with the all of the effects of his injuries … but he showed today how strong he is physically and mentally.”
Vande Velde finished the stage in 162nd, 5:18 behind stage winner André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol). It was a good result for the American, considering the heavy fall he took just one day ago. Vande Velde’s collarbone and back felt the blunt of the blow after he flipped over his bike.
Vande Velde was one of the last to get up following a crash set off by Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing). When the TV caught him, he was sitting on the side of the road and looked unlikely to continue.
“I was at the front, I was on the left side of the road because I thought something would happen,” Vande Velde said this morning. “It really just shows that there are not that many safe places.”
He finished 10 minutes behind the peloton, but doubts remained.
Vande Velde visited the Tour’s medical truck with team doctor Prentice Steffen for an X-ray and ultrasound on Wednesday evening. The exam revealed a screw coming out of a metal plate inserted to repair a previous collarbone fracture (Vande Velde has suffered multiple broken collarbones during his career).
“I stressed my collarbone pretty good,” Vande Velde added. “[The screw] went into a muscle and it has a little hematoma, but in all honestly, my back hurts much worse.”
Steffen watched the video replay to better understand the seriousness of Vande Velde’s crash.
“If he had a concussion we’d pull him out. He was fully conscious. His head’s fine,” said Steffen. “He has injuries, but he’s medically safe. We’d never put someone out there if he wasn’t safe.”
Vande Velde mounted his bike on the turbo trainer this morning to understand what he was in for once the race’s sixth stage rolled out. The wind in this part of France is usally strong, like today, and can cause for more stressful racing than what he would find in the high mountains.
“I’m just trying to give myself a fair chance, my biggest concern is my health and the health of those riders around me. If I’m endangering myself or the people around me, then I’ll be out of here,” Vande Velde said.
Team brass selected him to help GC talents Ryder Hesjedal and Andrew Talansky, but also to see how far he can go in his last Tour de France.
“I’m just considering it like a business decision,” said Vande Velde. “I’ll decide whether this is worth it or not.”
One day down, and many more to go for the 37-year-old American. It will be a tough ride, more so than normal, but that is just what Vande Velde expects.