Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Sharp) was among the starters on stage 6 of the Tour de France on Thursday in spite of the injuries he sustained the previous day in a crash on final climb of the Col de la Gineste.
Vande Velde hurt his neck and back in the crash and he explained that he had exacerbated old injuries from the 2006 Paris-Nice and the 2009 Giro d’Italia in the process.
“I stressed my collarbone pretty good and I still have a plate in both sides and now one of the screws is coming out of it. It went into the muscle which has a little haematoma in it,” Vande Velde said at the start in Aix-en-Provence. “That said, my back hurts much worse.”
Vande Velde went for x-rays on Wednesday and warmed up on the rollers ahead of the start of stage 6 in a bid to increase his chances of surviving the stage. He explained that he would withdraw if he felt his restricted mobility was endangering others.
“I’m trying to give myself a fighting chance. My biggest concern is my health and that of those around me. If I’m a danger to either, I’ll be out of here. If I’m ok, I’ll push on,” he said.
Ironically, Vande Velde said that his chances of completing the stage would be far greater if the route were a mountainous one, explaining that the expected battle for position in the crosswinds on Thursday afternoon would prove extremely difficult given his injuries.
“I don’t know what chance I have. I don’t feel so bad but today is one of the worst days I could have,” he said. “A mountain day would have been fine. This is going to be hard. It’s going to be windy, it’s going to be nervous and there’s going to be a lot of sprinting.”
Vande Velde is set to retire at the end of this season and this will be his final Tour de France. The American served a six-month ban over the winter following his confession to doping during his time at US Postal, but returned for one more season so as to leave the sport on a more positive note.
“I’m trying to keep the emotion out of it, and not thinking that this is going to be my last Tour,” he said on Thursday.