Medical staff at the 22 teams competing at the Tour de France are likely to have had a busy evening following a crash-strewn Stage 5 from Carhaix to Cap Frehel. Mark Cavendish of HTC-Highroad won his first stage of this year’s race following a tough sprint finish, but other riders finished the stage battered and bruised, if they managed to complete it at all.
RadioShack this evening confirmed that Janez Brajkovic had suffered concussion and a fractured collarbone when he crashed shortly after the intermediate sprint point. The Slovenian rider was taken away in an ambulance, his race over.
There was better news for Quickstep’s Tom Boonen, who managed to complete the stage following a bad crash that left him bloodied and bruised, with many suspecting he may have fractured his collarbone. Luckily, there was nothing broken, and the Belgian will continue racing tomorrow.
Boonen came down 60km from the finish in a crash that also involved team mates Gert Steegmans, who also stayed down for a while before getting back on his bike, Gerald Ciolek and Addy Engels.
Afterwards, quoted on the Quick Step website, the former World Champion explained what had happened: “To avoid the riders ahead of me I braked but my front wheel touched another athlete’s back wheel”, he said.
“I flew over my bike in an endo and I fell, hitting my head and the right side of my body. My helmet busted on impact."
For a couple of minutes, it looked as though Boonen’s Tour was finished, but the Quick Step rider was determined to carry on. “After the first few minutes of shock I got back on my bike and I wanted to finish the stage”, he revealed.
While Steegmans headed off up the road, Engels waited for Boonen to help his team leader make it to the finish within the time limit.
“I have to thank Engels for his support,” added Boonen. “Alone I would have risked ending up outside of the maximum time. Now all I only want to recover some energy for tomorrow."
Sylvain Chavanel, who spent two stints in the yellow jersey last year, also crashed today, shortly after the feed zone. “In the fall I also hit my head and broke my helmet,” he disclosed after the stage. “The consequences could have been much worse. Tomorrow morning I’m lining up for the start as usual, but it’s obvious that tomorrow I can look forward to a day of suffering."
Another team to see more than one rider involved in high-profile crashes during today’s stage was Saxo Bank-SunGard, with Alberto Contador ending up in a ditch and needing to be paced back to the peloton by colleagues including Nicki Sørensen, who shortly afterwards had his bike whipped from under him by a passing photo motorbike.
“I was riding safely in the side of the road as a motorbike knocked me off the bike. He was actually going so close that my bike was drawn after his motorbike for 200 meters and I landed heavily on the ground. Luckily, I'm ok and am able to ride again tomorrow,” said Sørensen.
The Danish champion was thrown clear of his bike and onto the grass verge in the incident. Had his feet not disengaged from the pedals, it is likely that he would have suffered very serious injuries.
Tour organisers ASO are already understood to be considering reducing the number of photo motorbikes allowed on the race, and it has been reported that race director Christian Prudhomme fired the motorcycle pilot concerned via radio while the stage was still in progress.
Reflecting on his own crash, Contador said: ““I'm very happy because I've saved the day without serious problems because of my teammates who all did an excellent work supporting me back to the peloton. I knew today's stage was going to be dangerous because of the tension in the field. Fortunately, I can have confidence in my teammates and I'm ready for another stage tomorrow.”
Another Spanish rider was less lucky than Contador, however. Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Ivan Velasco was taken to hospital to be checked over for a suspected broken collarbone. Although his diagnosis has not yet been made public, the rider appears determined to continue the Tour.
Perhaps the pithiest quote came from not from one of the stars involved in a crash or contesting the finale, but from a French jouneyman pro at UCI Pro Continental outfit Saur Sojasun, the 30-year-old Laurent Magnel, who said simply:
“It was a shit day.”
It’s unlikely he’s alone in holding that sentiment this evening.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.