By Gregor Brown in Jausiers
American Christian Vande Velde's run for the Tour de France's maillot jaune took a major setback when he was gapped off of the group of favourites going up the day's second hors categorie climb of Bonette-Restefond and then crashed on the backside towards the finish.
"It was a bad day and I crashed," said Vande Velde, the Garmin-Chipotle team leader who has until this point ridden a flawless Tour. He lost 2'36" on the other classification contenders and now sits 3'15 back on race leader Fränk Schleck.
Vande Velde was one of the six riders within one minute of the overall lead heading into Tuesday's stage of Tour – 157 kilometres to Jausiers. The work of CSC-Saxo Bank put paid to his chance to win the race's overall on the 25.5-kilometre Bonette-Restefond. He was helped by team-mate Ryder Hesjedal to limit his time loss over the top of the climb, but the work went down the drain when he crashed on the way to the finish.
"I had a lot of help from Ryder [Hesjedal] – he did an amazing job. We were really close, I was only 35 seconds behind. Then, on the way down, I crashed along with the Cofidis guy. ... I just crashed through a tight corner; it was my fault.
"We completely lost our rhythm and it took us a while to get going again. We started going again towards the bottom, but at that point we had lost so much time and momentum."
Vande Velde may now have lost his possibility to win the Tour, but he has a chance at a podium position. Russian Denis Menchov joined Vande Velde in those who lost time from the classification favourites. He sits in fifth overall, just ahead of Vande Velde, at 1'13" back from Schleck.
"Anything can happen tomorrow," Vande Velde said of the stage to Alpe d'Huez. "It is not over by any means. There are a lot of guys who are suffering."
Canadian Hesjedal commented that it was the first red mark in the team's check book. He is not concerned with his team-mate's strength with one hard mountain day remaining.
"We did what we could. ... Tactically we did a good job," he said to Cyclingnews. If he could not stay in that group that is the first mark against us. ... I think we salvaged as much as we could given the day."