Battered Ten Dam dreaming of Alpe win

Dutch climber hanging on despite facial injuries

While some of the overall contenders at the Tour de France may have griped about an overly tense stage between Limoux and Montpellier on Sunday, Rabobank's Laurens Ten Dam was simply happy to have made it to the stage 15 finish at all. After his horrendous face-first crash on the road to Plâteau de Beille, that left him with his face bloodied and needing eight stitches in his wounds, Ten Dam was a relieved man when he rolled into Montpellier just a couple of minutes down on the bunch and with a rest day to come.

"I'm glad I'm here," he said at the finish with some difficulty, his face still very swollen. The Rabobank climber started stage 15 on the understanding that he would quit if there was even the slightest doubt about his condition. "I've never felt worse at the start of a stage," he told the Rabosport website. "I was lucky that after all of two kilometres a group got away.

"After that it became more relaxed in the peloton, which moved at a pretty constant rate. We did have a lot of wind, so I had to sprint a few times in order to stay in contact. Until the final, that is, when I fell back. But losing a couple of minutes is not so bad."

The battered Dutchman admitted his biggest problem during Sunday's stage was taking in enough food. "My face doesn't feel bad, but it is difficult to eat. At the end I was really empty. I didn't get a lot down me. I had real difficulty eating the two rolls I had with me, so I ended up having a lot of liquid food and a few sweets, which I wasn't happy about. But I want to get Paris and I'm assuming that things will improve in the coming days," he said.

Asked about becoming the latest Dutch rider after Johnny Hoogerland to achieve hero status because of injuries sustained on the Tour, Ten Dam said he'd prefer to get that status because of his performances on the bike. "My legs feel just as good as they did before the crash. I would rather get hero status because of a world-class performance on Alpe d'Huez."

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