Astana’s Janez Brajkovic is out of this year’s Tour de France after crashing with less 10 kilometres to go on Thursday’s stage 6 from Aix-En-Provence to Montpellier.
The Astana all-rounder sustained a deep wound in his left knee which although was stitched up after the stage, meant that he could not longer continue in the race. Brajkovic, who finished in the top 10 in last year’s Tour de France had returned this year to help Jakob Fuglsang challenge in the overall.
"I was really scared when I saw the size and depth of the hole in my knee," Brajkovic said according to his team.
"I knew it was bad, but I wanted to finish because you never know. The doctors were very fast and very professional, and they sewed up both of the wounds. They also said that when the anesthetic wears off I am going to be in a lot of pain," Brajkovic said.
Astana had already lost Fredrik Kessiakoff after the Swede crashed earlier in the stage and abandoned. Andrey Kashechkin withdrew on stage 3 suffering from illness, and Astana now has just six riders left in the race.
"It's nobody's fault. It's the Tour de France, everybody is here to do a good job, everybody is here to work for their captain, and everybody wants to be at the front of the race," said Kessiakoff. "The road is only so wide, and it is impossible for everybody to be at the front."
"I couldn't shift today I was in so much pain, and when the crosswinds started and the peloton was speeding up, I couldn't accelerate and hold on to the bars because my whole body was in pain. I'm sorry for myself and I'm sorry for the team, because six guys now have to do the work of nine for the next two and a half weeks," Kessiakoff said.
Astana Pro Team Director Sportif Dmitriy Sedoun said the crashes were an unlucky coincidence, and they made for a frustrating challenge in the coming weeks.
"Fuglsang in the mountains now has five riders to help him. We lost two exceptional climbers today, on a flat stage in the wind with no breakaway. What can you do? We have to treat our injured riders, help the rest of the team recover and move on, and then we have to race again tomorrow and the next day and 13 more stages after that. It's not going to be easy, nothing in cycling ever is," Sedoun said.
Fuglsang said that achieving a top 10 will now be harder. "The goal remains the same, it's just not going to be any easier," Fuglsang said.
Brajkovic said he would come back again. "I go home, I recover, I do it again. That's what I do," Brajkovic said.