Tour de France: Bahrain-Merida must recalibrate after losing Izagirre

Colbrelli leads the charge for stage victories

Bahrain-Merida, was one of several teams left needing to rethink their Tour de France strategy after a difficult opening time trial. The fledgling team in their debut Grand Boucle lost team leader Ion Izagirre after he crashed in the same corner as Alejandro Valverde crashed out on.

Valverde was still stricken on the tarmac when Izagirre rounded the bend to find the scene. Izagirre was riding well enough, according to his power data, to post a time in and around the 16:30 mark, which would have put him ahead of most of the other general classification riders.

The coming stages will all be about the team's sprinter Sonny Colbrelli, but by the end of the week they will need to have mapped out a new plan for the more mountainous stages.

"The GC is out of our hands now so we've got to be realistic. A stage win is what we'll work towards," team manager Brent Copeland told Cyclingnews. "We start all over again, apart from these first few stages, which were all for Sonny Colbrelli, in any case, and then stage hunting and try to show off the jersey as much as we can and put as much spectacle into the Tour as we can without having a GC rider."

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As well as sprints, Colbrelli has his eyes on taking the green jersey away from Peter Sagan. The Italian is currently fourth with 24 points after taking points at the intermediate sprint and finishing sixth in the bunch gallop behind Marcel Kittel. Copeland highlighted Tsgabu Grmay, Ondrej Cink and Grega Bole as the three others who might best serve the team in their stage hunting ambitions. Cink in particular will be an interesting watch after switching from mountain biking to road racing over the winter.

"I remember Croatia at the training camp, he said, "I've never ridden in a group before, I train with my friends but that's in groups of four or five" and now six months down the line he's on the start line of the Tour de France," said Copeland. "Obviously, we've been very impressed with how he dedicates himself to his work."

Izagirre out for the season

For Izagirre, he will have to wait a little longer to reassess his targets. The 28-year-old broke his L1 and L2 vertebrae in the crash, which will be operated on Monday. He will likely have to stay in Dusseldorf until the end of the week so that he can recover from the operation and so the medical staff can keep a close eye on him. Needless to say, Izagirre will be out for the rest of the season, like his former teammate Valverde will be after fracturing his kneecap.

"It's unfortunate, because he was in great condition. He was really motivated and I think that he would have added some spectacle to the Tour de France this year, but it is what it is," said Copeland.

"I went to visit him in hospital and he's up and down. He's got a great attitude to everything that he confronts in live. Fortunately, he can move his feet and his legs and that's the most important thing and he's just going to take time to recover now. His season is over now so he's got to wait until next year but he's sorry for the team and teammates because he's put in a lot of dedication." 

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