Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) has described the loss of his teammate Jesús Hernandez as a big blow ahead of the mountains of the Tour de France, which begin this weekend with the eighth stage from Tomblaine to Gérardmer La Mauselaine.
Hernandez is Contador’s right-hand man and one of his best friends in the peloton, and his departure will be tough to take for the team. "I have to say that the loss of Jesús is a big blow for the team. I had reserved him for the mountains, it’s a shame. I hope that it is not something too serious," Contador said after the stage. "For me it is very hard because I had a big confidence in him, but the most important thing is that he will be well and that he will be ready for the Vuelta."
It was a hectic day, with yet more rain and crosswinds up to 30kph hammering the peloton. Hernandez was hit by a big gust, which caused him to lose control of his bike and was sent tumbling into the tarmac. The Spaniard looked dazed as he sat on the side of the road and was taken straight to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with cranial trauma and contusions to his hip and back.
Despite the setback, directeur sportif Bjarne Riis won’t be changing his plans. "It’s unfortunate that we lose a guy. It’s never good, but that’s racing and that’s the circumstances. We can’t do anything about it and we must go on. It’s tough, it’s hard and he tried, but he couldn’t go on and he’s really hurt his head," said Riis. "We have what we have and we will get the best out of it. It doesn’t change our strategy. We have a man less and that’s it, we can’t do anything."
Contador has had a tricky few days ahead - he sits 2:39 behind race leader Vincenzo Nibali. He was the in -orm rider heading into the Tour, but with Nibali and his team looking increasingly strong, making the time back in the mountains could be easier said than done.
Tinkoff-Saxo have been pretty visible in the peloton – especially now that they’ve got a new florescent look to their kit. However, in the tougher stages during the opening week Contador has found himself with few teammates surrounding him. With a key member down, are the team strong enough to reduce the deficit to Nibali?
"It’s hard to say, I’m good in the mountains but the whole team is not mountain climbers. I guarantee that we will try our best," Michael Rogers told Cyclingnews. "It’s certainly fair to say that it would be better if we were closer, but these are the cards that we’ve got. We’re still confident in Alberto that he can make back the time."