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Christian Vande Velde (Garmin Sharp) on the ground after a crash.
Garmin-Sharp veteran unable to finish his last ever Tour
Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) abandoned the Tour de France after another crash during Friday's stage to Albi. His injuries compounded his problems caused by a crash on stage five to Marseille. He had been fighting the pain of a loose screw in a collarbone plate and major back pain.
The 37-year-old American was hoping to finish what would have been the final Tour de France of his career. Instead, he will head home before the Tour de France reaches the Pyrenees.
"I'm not in control of that [with how his Tour ends]. I havent been in control of that in the last few days," a dejected Vande Velde said. "It wasn't supposed to end this way but right now I'm happy to be out of pain off the bike, and I think it's going to be a couple of days before it all sinks in."
Vande Velde was caught behind riders who tangled on stage 5, but then found himself on the ground again the very next stage, not more than 11km into the race.
"It was a big crash coming over one of the bridges. At that point it was an easy decision to say enough is enough. I've got bruising [in crash today] so I've got both sides now."
"Christian suffered his second crash in three days today and unfortunately his injuries have forced him out of the Tour,” team doctor Prentice Steffen said in a statement issued by the Garmin-Sharp team.
“The multiple contusions and abrasions he suffered in today’s crash, compounded with the injuries he sustained on stage five, which included a blood clot in his neck muscle, a loosened screw in his clavicle plate and upper back injuries, made it impossible for him to finish the stage. We’ll examine him closely tonight and continue to evaluate his injuries.”
Vande Velde raced his first Grand Tour in the 1998 Vuelta a Espana, and his first Tour de France in 1999 with the US Postal Service team. He raced mainly as a domestique, first in the service of Lance Armstrong and then with Liberty Seguros and CSC before joining Garmin in 2008. Under the tutelage of Jonathan Vaughters, his fortunes improved significantly in the Tour, and he finished fourth overall that year.
His luck hasn't continued in the Grand Tours, however, and he suffered a number of devastating crashes in the years that followed and almost quit the sport in 2010.
He bounced back in 2011, but then was part of the US Anti-Doping Agency's case against Armstrong, and his testimony regarding the doping that took place on the US Postal Service team led him to receive a six-month, off-season ban for admitting to doping. He returned in March, but crashed out of the Volta a Catalunya, his first race back, with a broken collarbone.
Vande Velde hopes to bounce back in time to defend his title in the USA Pro Challenge in Colorado in August, but that is still in doubt because the crash damaged a plate that was holding his collarbone together. "I still have races to come so that's a positive thing. But the team is performing great so its nice to leave them in a good place, rather than in a shambles.
"Utah or Colorado maybe, we'll see how bad some of my injuries are. Definitely need to go and look at my back and collarbone to see how bad things are. Maybe I will refocus on the TTT worlds at the end of the year. It'll be a great last race."