Pierre Rolland has affectionately been nicknamed the oeuf –French for the egg, by his Cannondale-Drapac teammates at the Tour de France. They have been carefully protecting the oeuf during the first week of the race but he suffered serious road rash and lost time on Saturday's stage after a slow puncture near the top of the Col de Peyresourde caused him to crash at speed on the descent.
Rolland hit a wall with his left hand, shoulder and side. He quickly got going again and tried to limit his losses but finished four second down on the chase group containing Alberto Contador (Tinkoff). He was 1:45 down on stage winner and new race leader Chris Froome (Team Sky), with most of his overall rivals in a front chase group that finished 1:32 ahead of him. He slipped to 15th overall, 1:55 down on Froome.
Despite being covered in road rash and in severe pain, Rolland had to attend anti-doping control before being able to go to the Cannondale-Drapac team bus for treatment. Later on Saturday night, the team's doctors put stitches in cuts on his knuckles but he vowed to continue. Rolland proved he is one tough oeuf, with a thick shell.
"I've got my two arms and my legs. That's the key, so I can continue in the Tour," he said after the stage.
"I felt that I had a problem with my front wheel but kept going. It was a slow puncture and the tubular turned on the rim a little because of the heat. Just like Beloki that year, the bike suddenly became uncontrollable and I ended up hitting a wall. I did not fall but I grated my entire side on it. I need stitches in my hand and I've got scratches everywhere."
Rolland was a somewhat surprise signing for Cannondale-Drapac but he was looking to restart his career afresh after five seasons at Team Europcar. He learnt to speak English in just a few months and the American team claims to have improved his training and performance in a number of areas.
"I have two nicknames in the team: le Frog and the oeuf," Rolland told Cyclingnews with a smile and sense of humour that fits in well with the unique atmosphere at Cannondale-Drapac.
"I suppose my GC chances are fragile like an egg and the team is protecting me very well. I'm super happy in the Cannondale-Drapac team.
Not done yet
Rolland had ridden consistently well in the first week of the Tour and had avoided the crashes and any time losses in the Massif Central and on the climb of the Col d'Aspin. Now he will have to fight to move back up the classification and try to stay with Froome and Quintana as long as possible on the stage to Andorra and especially on the mountain finish in Arcalis.
"It's disappointing because the start to my Tour was almost perfect and now I've lost 1:30. I'll change my plans but keep fighting, I'm not done yet," he said defiantly.
"There are lots of different ways to ride the Tour de France but I'm going to keep riding intelligently and stay on the wheel of the big teams and follow the likes of Froome and Quintana as much as possible. We'll see what happens after the Pyrenees. Now we've got another big mountain stage, the first mountain finish.
Today was fast but I think the stage will see the first big shake out. I'm sure Froome will try to make a big number and gain time again. The stage suits him. There's no more time to hide in the shadows, you've got to let your legs speak."