Christian Vande Velde has told Cyclingnews that he can empathize with his fellow American and former Garmin-Sharp teammate Andrew Talansky after he fought the pain caused by his crashes to somehow finish stage 11 to Oyannax.
Vande Velde retired last year and is now a commentator for NBC television on the Tour de France. He crashed hard several times at Grand Tours in his career but always fought on or came back to fight again. He crashed out of the Giro d'Italia twice and withdrew from the 2010 Tour de France, but only after finishing the second stage with two broken ribs.
He served a six-month ban for doping after confessing and collaborating with the USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong and the US Postal Service team but returned to ride the 2013 Tour de France in his final season.
He failed to reach Paris one last time after crashing for a second time on stage seven after riding with a severe back pain and a blood clot following a crash on stage five.
"I really take my hat off to Andrew," Vande Velde told Cyclingnews.
"It's such a shock to the system when you go off the back by yourself and have so many negative thoughts going through your head. But I think he made the right decision to fight on and finish the stage. He's not going to wake up tomorrow and think could have, should have or would have. He won't any regrets no matter what he decides to do going forward."
A humbling experience that will make him grow
Although Talansky is suffering now and has lost any chance of doing well in the overall classification, Vande Velde is convinced that the experience will help in years and Tours to come.
"Suffering in a race and fighting on is a very humbling experience and today is day that will help him grow a lot," he suggested.
"I've spoken to him a few times and he's understandably frustrated and angry. You can't teach a person to have the fire that Andrew has but you can always tame it. And I think over the years he'll find a happy median."
"His case is a lot like that of Tejay van Garderen last year who had a very humbling experience (at the Tour de France). He went from getting a fifth place in 2012 to virtually nothing in 2013 But after that he destroyed people at the USA Pro Challenge."
With Talansky no longer and overall contender, Vande Velde is hoping van Garderen can fly the flag for the USA and do well in the remainder of this year's Tour de France. He finished in the front group on Oyonnax and is currently seventh overall, 3:56 behind leader Vincenzo Nibali.
"I think Tejay is looking good. He must be made out of rubber because he's hit the ground five times," Vande Velde noted.
"Both Talansky and Tejay usually do well in the third week of a Grand Tour and now I'm sure that Tejay has that in his mind now. I think he can do a spectacular last week."