By Gregor Brown in Aurillac
One of the Tour's pre-race favourites, Lampre's Damiano Cunego, suffered a blow to his campaign during the seventh stage across the risky Massif Central roads. The stage was one where the Tour de France is not won, but it can easily be lost, a lesson Cunego learnt the hard way when he hit the deck after 60 kilometres.
As the race was zooming towards the French town of Tagenac in the Cantal département of southwestern France, Cunego became tangled up with another rider and hit the road hard on his backside.
"It takes only one moment to compromise everything," explained the 26 year-old Italian to Cyclingnews following the stage. "Everything is crushed," he continued from the passenger seat of the team's car in Aurillac.
Cunego remained on the ground following the crash as CSC - Saxo Bank was thundering along at the head of the splintered peloton. A full-force chase by his team worked, but his legs were weakened to the point that he was exhausted on the climb of Saint-Jean-de-Donne, nine kilometres from the finish. He finished in a large group some 27 seconds back.
"I looked like [Rabobank's Juan Antonio] Flecha, I got hooked up with him and slid about 10 metres on the ground. Afterwards, I tried to re-join the battle immediately, but at first I was solo as everyone was up the road." His team then came to his rescue. "We re-joined, but I suffered a lot."
Cunego described most of the pain to be coming from his right gluteus. "I did not feel my right leg all day - I hope it is nothing serious," he said.
He had been defiant at Super Besse on Thursday, saying that "the war is not over," but 24 hours later he did not seem as confident in the battles to come. "If I keep loosing seconds every day it will end quickly. It is better I don't think about this.