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Tejay van Garderen (BMC)
American rider says it was a brutal stage 10
On a day that saw Tinkoff-Saxo's team leader Alberto Contador crash out of the Tour de France and fracture his tibia, even reaching the finish without losing massive amounts of time was considered a good result by every rider who made it La Planche des Belles Filles.
American rider Tejay van Garderen (BMC) survived the intense racing, the rain-soaked descents, the steep climbs of Vosges and the crashes to finish in the main chase group. He lost 22 seconds to Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) but rose from 16th to seventh place overall, 3:56 down on the Italian.
In comparison, fellow American Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) lost 10 minutes and slipped to 26th overall at 14:44 minutes back.
"It was a brutal stage, just hard all day," van Garderen said, stopping briefly to talk to the media at the summit finish. "We're not getting a break with this weather and we saw a lot of guys crashing again. But I think I can be happy with how I rode today."
Van Garderen has been involved in at least four crashes so far in this Tour de France and revealed that he saw Contador go down at speed.
"I saw him crash. I'm hearing just now that he actually abandoned," he said. "That's a real shame for the race. We were going to see a heated battle between him and Nibali. Hopefully the rest of us can still put on a good show.
"I was right behind him. It was a tricky descent on rough roads. I didn't get a good look at it but I saw him and his bike at the side of he road. I was hoping he was able to get up but it's a real shame he's out."
American rider in a select group of six chasers
Van Garderen was part of the select group of six riders that formed the chase group behind Nibali when he attacked with 2.5km to go. The sextet closed the gap at one point but the Italian surged to the line and so gained 20 seconds.
"I was just trying to hang on. When he went, I knew that if I tried to go (with him), I'd probably blow up, so I had to stick with some more steady riders like Richie Porte," he explained.
"Towards the end, I tried to give it a go but I think I went a little too early."
Van Garderen's parting comment echoed the thoughts of every one of the 180 riders left in this year's Tour de France.
"I just want to get to the rest day…" he said.
He has made it and is still well-placed overall in seventh, 3:56 is a significant gap to Nibali but the podium is much closer, with Alejandro Valverde only 1:09 ahead in third place.
With Contador and Chris Froome out of the race, van Garderen knows the Tour de France is wide open. Anything can happen in the second part of the race.