It was a day of mixed fortunes for two of Garmin-Sharp's Tour de France debutants on stage 19 to La Grand-Bornand on Friday. While Andrew Talansky impressed by finishing in the yellow jersey group on a day that saw the race traverse five Alpine passes, his teammate Jack Bauer abandoned after crashing heavily on the descent of the Col du Glandon.
Bauer sustained facial injuries when he landed against a wire fence during the second of two crashes on the sinuous descent of the Glandon, the first climb of the day. Previously a faller on the road to Tours in the second week, the New Zealander was on course to finish his second Grand Tour after contributing to Ryder Hesjedal's Giro d'Italia victory last year.
"His front wheel went off the side a little bit and he flipped over the bars," Garmin-Sharp manager Jonathan Vaughters explained after the stage. "He probably would have been fine only that he went into a very sharp fence with some kind of wiring and I think that cut him up."
Although Bauer's injuries were enough to force him out of the race, no fractures were reported and the 28-year-old was released from hospital on Friday afternoon. "He's ok," Vaughters said. "He's not happy, he's had a number of stitches to his face but other than it's alright."
Further up the road, meanwhile, Andrew Talansky was in the process of producing perhaps his best showing of the Tour to date as he stayed in touch with the yellow jersey group when the attacking began on the Col de Croix-Fry ahead of the sharp drop to the finish line. The American's fine performances in the Alps have seen him move up to 12th place overall and his showing on the Croix-Fry means he edges closer to a top ten finish as he made further gains on Laurens ten Dam and Michal Kwiatkowski. Talansky now approaches Saturday's final mountain stage to Semnoz just 16 seconds shy of a top ten finish in his debut Tour.
"It was a long hard grinding kind of a stage, we never let up," Talansky said on crossing the line. "Sky rode, then Saxo Bank took over and they made the race really hard. They just rode harder and harder up the climbs until there were only ten guys left so it was really hard."
"At times you just feel like you're being tortured a little bit. You dig in and keep going because you know that it's all worth it. It's the Tour, you can find a little extra."
Hesjedal and Martin
The day began with an attack from Garmin-Sharp's Ryder Hesjedal. Stricken by illness during his defence of his Giro d'Italia title and struggling with a broken rib on this Tour, the Canadian looked to put a fresh complexion on his race when he attacked early in the stage.
Hesjedal led over the Col du Glandon and was later joined by Pierre Rolland (Europcar) out in front on the mighty Col de la Madeleine. The pair collaborated well together in the valley that followed but when the road reared up again on the Col de Tamié, Hesjedal was unable to match Rolland's pace.
"He went into the stage with a lot enthusiasm and he got out there," Vaughters said. "Then, with 60k to go he just said he started not feeling quite right and cramping up a little bit and that was it. The lights went out a little bit at that point. It's a little emblematic of the year he's had so far, but a lot of people with the luck he's had in the few months would have thrown in the towel."
It was trying day, too, for Dan Martin, who has been suffering from illness in the third week of the race. A sparkling stage winner in the Pyrenees, the stricken Martin slipped out of the top ten overall on the road to Alpe d'Huez on Thursday. The Irishman has described his Tour as a series of 21 one-day races and had stage 19 been a stand-alone event, it is hard to imagine that he would have taken the start.
Instead, Martin gamely battled through the stage and he managed to stay in sight of the main peloton until the penultimate climb of the Col de l'Épine, before finishing a little under half an hour down on stage winner Rui Costa (Movistar).