The Garmin-Sharp team were left licking their wounds after another disappointing day in the year’s Tour de France, with Ryder Hesjedal and almost all of his teammates affected by the mass pile-up on the stage to Metz. It proved too much for Tom Danielson, a crash victim from earlier in the week, with last year’s top ten rider abandoning the race. However it was the sight of Ryder Hesjedal on the ground that will have caused the team the most heartache. The Giro winner had been seen as a potential rival for Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggin in this year’s Tour but lost over 13 minutes. The Canadian was later treated on the team bus, which one Garmin spokesperson called a hospital after several race medical staff were called to on board to treat riders.
Two hours after the finish it was unclear whether Hesjedal would continue in the race but along with Danielson’s abandonment, Johan Vansummeren was taken to hospital with an injured shoulder, while David Millar and Christian Vande Velde were also treated for minor injuries.
With Hesjedal’s overall ambitions over and his race in the balance the team will now have to focus on stage wins, a task made even harder with Tyler Farrar already nursing cuts and bruises from several crashes in the last few days.
"It was a disaster day for us," said Allan Peiper. "It’s very disappointing for us all-round over the last few days. It’s definitely a week to forget and sometimes it just doesn’t work. We’ve got so many guys who are injured, we’ll have to take stock tonight and see who is capable and who is not. Vansummeren was looking dazed on the ground and it looks like he might have something wrong with his shoulder. We’ll see what the doctors say and see tonight."
Peiper, a seasoned ex-pro himself, is of course no stranger to crashes that can often affect racing but in both his time as a rider and subsequently as a directeur sportif he admitted he had never seen such an extensive list of walking wounded on one team and was clearly shaken at the finish when talking to the press.
"I’ve crashed three times in a week before as a rider but I’ve never been in a team or involved in a team that’s had so much bad luck in the first week of a race. I think it’s just bad luck has come our way. That’s it but we’ve lost most of our chances for everything in this Tour de France."
Garmin had hoped to turn a chapter on the stage to Metz. After a relatively successful prologue for Hesjedal, the team has endured a difficult Tour. Crashes aside the team was the centre of a speculative – later to be proven untrue – story surrounding USADA’s investigation into US Postal and Lance Armstrong. At the start of stage 5 Jonathan Vaughters, who did not attend today’s stage, was forced to read out a public statement. Peiper was asked by Cyclingnews if Thursday’s ordeal had affected the team’s morale and focus.
"I’d like to think not but you never know how things affect people," he said.
"I think in the last few days Danielson, Farrar and Hunter have been pretty bashed up. Vande Velde crashed as well and we had the back luck before. I thought we might be able to salvage something but it doesn’t seem to be the case.
"I can’t really see what a successful Tour would be from now. Everybody was down. Everybody was down."
Daniel Martin, who has come through the first week relatively unscathed, could be the team’s main hope. Although down on the overall, the young climber is their most talented and healthy option for the mountains.