By Brecht Decaluwé
The Discovery Channel team hasn't been excluded from the Tour's bad luck, and after Lithuanian Tomas Vaitkus' abandon following his crash on stage two, the team could be down one more valuable domestique after Benjamin Noval ran into the Bouygues Telecom team car on stage five.
Discovery directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel said the Spaniard is "Pretty messed up" according to the team's website, www.thepaceline.com. Noval crashed through the window of the Bouygues Telecom car, and is the second rider to have that type of mishap after Agritubel's Eduardo Gonzalo Ramirez ran into the Caisse d'Epargne car on stage one. While Ramirez was forced to abandon with a broken collarbone, Noval was able to finish the stage, despite having deep cuts to his armpit. "He finished the stage so I think he'll be able to start tomorrow," Bruyneel commented after the stage, "but it will depend on how he looks in the morning. He's definitely going to hurt a lot but I think he can start."
Bruyneel blamed the crash on the Bouygues team director, explaining, "We've seen the images of the crash now on the television. The car had a French TV crew inside the car and the director was entertaining the camera, explaining race tactics as he was driving and going all out downhill."
"I think it's pretty dangerous to do that," he continued. "There are some people who talk about the danger or usefulness of using radios in a race and I have my opinion on that, but I definitely have my opinion about TV cameras in the race cars. Seeing certain directors trying to be the star of the show and wanting to entertain the TV while they have to drive and think about the safety of the riders. It's definitely very dangerous. That's why we never have TV cameras in the car, or at least if we do we pretend that they are not there. I don't think we can say the same of everybody."
The injury of Noval is another blow to the team after the abandon of Vaitkus. Dirk Demol described some more details of Vaitkus' injury to Cyclingnews. "We immediately brought him to the hospital in Waregem because it was a complex fracture, there was a muscle involved. He was unlucky to hit the barriers directly with his thumb," Demol said. The thumb was fractured in five places, and it was sad for the friendly Lithuanian rider as he was very motivated for his first participation in the Tour de France.
"A month before the Tour we informed him that he would make the selection. He only needed to lose three kilograms, in the Dauphiné he was already on weight," Demol said. Vaitkus wasn't supposed to be sprinting in this Tour, but in Gent he did take part in the build-up. "In Gent he was allowed to sprint along as he has many friends there, it's a pity that it goes wrong just then," Demol said to Cyclingnews.
"The purpose for him was to join a breakaway later on in the Tour," Demol regretted the loss. After dropping out of the race, Vaitkus rebounded and returned to the start of the third stage where he wished his team-mates the best of luck. The team's mechanic told Cyclingnews that Vaitkus didn't need any help. "He just wanted his bags as he knows a lot of people in the area, he'll be all right."