The stage 6Tour de France finish line in Metz resembled a war zone rather than a bike race on Friday. Medics rushing from team bus to team bus attending to riders with torn kit, lacerated limbs and broken bones overshadowed the continuation of Peter Sagan’s progression, after a crash inside the final 25 kilometres turned the race on its head.
Ryder Hesjedal lost over 13 minutes, with Alejandro Valverde, Frank Schleck, Bauke Mollema and Robert Gesink all crossing the line with less skin than they started with and more time in their general classification tally than before.
But through the carnage and the panic Cadel Evans and his BMC Racing team came home unscathed. Luck of course plays its part in sport, and cycling is no different, but the defending champion’s team have been too consistent to merely put their strength on staying out of trouble down to the role of a dice.
Stacked with Classics riders and experience Evans has used his team sparingly but at key moments in this year’s race and at the start of this morning’s stage white jersey Tejay van Garderen pointed to the team’s Classics cast as a central part of BMC’s ability to marshal Evans at key points.
At the finish in Metz that was reinforced. BMC’s bus was just yards from Garmin’s and by the time the first Garmin rider had crossed the line BMC were all accounted for.
"We heard there was a big split, but we didn't drive it at the front or anything," Van Garderen said. "We just tried to keep good position and stay safe. We're lucky to have such strong guys on the team. It's a shame and I hope everyone's OK, but crashes are part of the game. That's why we're expending so much energy to stay at the front and stay safe."
While no one at BMC will be rejoicing the list of injured competitors, they will be satisfied with the ride thus far in the Tour. The deficit Evans currently has on Wiggins is less than ten seconds and although Monday’s Besançon stage should see the Sky rider take advantage in the race for yellow, stage 8 to La Planche des Belles Filles offers the defending champion at least the opportunity to put Wiggins’s credentials under a small amount of strain.
"We'd normally say the real test starts tomorrow, but maybe it started today," Evans said. "I'm feeling pretty fresh at this point. It hasn't been the hardest first week we've had, that's for sure. Not since the Tours I've ridden at least – eight of them now. But now the guys' legs are starting to get softened and tomorrow will be the first real test of who has really come here for the overall contention."