By Laura Weislo in San Jose, California
The Kelly Benefit Strategy-Medifast team got a scare when its rider, Canadian Kevin Lacombe, was chasing back on through the following cars on stage three and wound up smashing through the back window of the CSC team car. The 22 year-old was the victim of a sudden stop in the caravan, but luckily escaped with just scrapes and bruises.
Cyclingnews spoke with team director Jonas Carney, who was arranging to pick the rider up from the local hospital, where he had been transported for X-rays. "I didn't see what happened. I know that Kevin, he must have come back to use the bathroom or something, and was probably just closing back on the field.
"All I saw was their rear window totally smashed and the rear view mirror missing. I don't know the details of it, but according to everyone we've talked to Kevin is doing really well, and they're skeptical that he's broken anything. He has good range of motion in his shoulder. We were worried it was broken because he was in a lot of pain on the side of the road and couldn't continue. "
This isn't the first time a rider has smashed through a team car window. Jan Ullrich famously crashed through his own team's car while training prior to the 2005 Tour de France, and last year two separate riders smashed through windows during the Tour de France. In 1988 American Davis Phinney (riding for 7-11 at the time) crashed through the windshield of a car in the caravan when he was chasing back after delayed by a previous crash. But Carney doesn't blame the drivers for the accident.
"This caravan's pretty safe. Everyone's pretty experienced and I think these things just happen. The caravan's a dangerous place, a scary place. There's a lot of risk involved there. Fortunately here everyone is being pretty professional - at some of the domestic race people can drive like idiots."
The team will miss Lacombe, who pulled out of the race after the crash, but was later found to have no broken bones, although he suffered soft tissue damage in his shoulder. "The guys like Kevin so much – he's got this great personality, and brings a lot of positivity to the team," explained Carney. "The kid is really aggressive the way he races, and he inspires everyone on the team to race hard. It can affect team morale when someone like Kevin gets hurt, but everyone's happy to hear he's OK. When you hit the back of a car, all kinds of really terrible things can happen."
"It's a bummer he's not going to be around for tomorrow, because we're shooting for a bunch sprint with Alex Candelario and Kevin's really been coming around. But there's plenty more racing in the year," Carney said.
The KBS team may be last in the teams classification, and come in all in the gruppetto on Wednesday's stage, but Carney is still satisfied with the riders' performance. "We didn't come here to climb with the leaders, we came to go for stages, or to pick up jerseys or get in the early break. We were hoping to be in the early break that went today, but we didn't make it. Sierra Grade wasn't really a goal we set for the race."
Carney thinks that just being in the race is worthwhile, as it will help the team raise its level of fitness for the early domestic season. "Just being able to get into this race and get the guys the experience is huge. Also, being able to do an eight-day race where you do this mileage against this competition – in March and April guys are going to be flying coming off of this. You can't get this kind of racing [on the domestic circuit] in America. You can't get that kind of form when you're doing little two and three day stage races all year. It's great for us to be here."