Tejay van Garderen (BMC) saw his chances of a top five finish at this year's Tour de France ebb further away after he hit the deck for the fourth time in a week. Van Garderen had already crashed once during the Grand Départ and twice on the cobbles. The stage 7 crash left the American with some superficial damage and a sore shoulder, and he lost more than a minute to his general classification rivals.
"The time loss isn't as big as the crash itself. You just have to stay the course and keep going," van Garderen said outside the team bus at the finish in Nancy. "It's a tough blow, but the Tour is long, the race changes. You saw a couple of guys lose a minute yesterday in the crosswinds. You just have to stay the course."
Van Garderen was safely within the bunch, on the final climb of Côte de Boufflers, when he moved to the right and tangled wheels with a Movistar rider. Van Garderen appeared to receive a knock to the head as another rider collided with him. "I was on my teammate Mickey's (Schar) wheel, to be honest I don't know. It felt like someone swerved over and it felt like I was taken out a little bit from behind," van Garderen said.
Van Garderen was with two teammates at the time, but neither could do anything about their stricken leader. Peter Velits spotted van Garderen at the last minute and was able to get him back on the road. "I was close by but I didn't see that Tejay had crashed. That's why I braked after five or 10 metres and then I looked around and saw that he was under the bike. I didn't know that it would happen," said Velits. "I gave him my bike because we have a similar position, but he already had a gap."
With Velits without a bike, it was down to Peter Stetina and Amaël Moinard to help the chase. The trio grafted on the front of a small group, but the pace was building for a sprint to the line and they couldn't close the gap. Van Garderen has now slipped down to 18th in the general classification, 3:14 behind Vincenzo Nibali (Astana).
BMC were dealt a second blow with Darwin Atapuma getting tangled up in the aftermath of his teammate's crash and fracturing his femur. Atapuma was making his debut at the Tour de France, but was expected to be van Garderen's last man in the mountains and the team were saving him for the occasion.
"It is a non-displaced fracture but it is intra-articular, so most likely it will require some surgery," BMC's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Max Testa said. "We hope to have an orthopedic specialist do the procedure tomorrow. Based on the outcome, we will decide the rehab program and the timing for him to go back on the bike in a few weeks."
"It's definitely not a good day for the team. We were keeping him fresh and out of the wind, not having him work at all, and keeping him fresh for the mountains," said van Garderen.
Velits was a little more matter of fact about his thoughts on the day. "It's really bad because he was a key player for Tejay in the mountains and it is a shit day," he said.