Four stages in the Tour de France and the Lotto-Belisol team is licking its wounds. Their dedicated sprinter André Greipel isn't performing as expected and three riders hit the deck on Tuesday, with Greg Henderson being forced to pull out of the race.
Team doctor Jan Mathieu confirmed that Henderson would require stitches to his knee: "Greg Henderson has a deep cut of twelve centimeters on his right knee," Mathieu said. "During a first check-up in the medical cabinet after the finish, the wound was stitched. Tonight Greg will go to the hospital of Herentals where he will undergo minor surgery by doctor Toon Claes. The knee will be drained to avoid the wound gets infected."
Bad news aside, the team general classification rider Jurgen Van Den Broeck is going well and riding in the same time as the other overall contenders. Team director Marc Wauters acknowledged that his team was not in great spirits so far when he was asked how they were.
"Not so well, of course. If you have a top sprinter in the team and you haven't got a victory then it's painful. Then again, we still have Jurgen Van Den Broeck who's well positioned in the general classification. He's another important rider in our team. He's still going strong," Wauters told NOS.
The Lotto-Belisol team is often riding in front of the peloton to bring the breakaway back but Wauters didn't worry about that. "It's good to ride in front since Van Den broeck can ride in front too that way," Wauters explained.
Yet, while riding in front in stage four, three Lotto-Belisol riders crashed on a roundabout at about thirty kilometres from the finish in Lille, in the north of France. Henderson came out worse and quickly indicated that his right knee was in a very bad condition. The man from New Zealand couldn't get back on his bike, and so the lead-out man from André Greipel was the fourth rider to abandon the Tour de France.
Lars Bak and Bart De Clercq were also part of the casualties. "When we arrived at that roundabout my front wheel slipped away. Maybe there was some oil on the road. I'm not hurt too much, some road rash. I'll need some days to recover. The confidence in the bike is a bit gone. When I got back in the peloton I was already thinking about tomorrow's stage. If it's going to be wet I'm already fearing the cobbles," De Clercq told Het Nieuwsblad.
At the finish in Lille, Greipel wasn't positioned well but he kept fighting for a good result and eventually finished seventh. Greipel didn't cope well with the rain which made the roads wet and slippery on the previous stage 3. "There was a crash during the build-up of the sprint and that hindered our sprint train too. Greipel lost his men and then it was over," Wauters recalled. Team manager Marc Sergeant knew what happened. "The rain and the big crowds... André got scared. He always let go of the boys and hit the brakes in every corner. Then you can't win in the Tour de France. It's a missed opportunity," Sergeant said. "Afterwards we talked but he's a professional and he knows what he has to do. We assume he can beat Kittel," Wauters said before stage four. For now, that remains to be seen in this Tour de France.