After coming through the first five hectic stages of the Tour de France unscathed, bad luck struck for Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) on stage 6 when he suffered a mechanical just before the first uphill finish on the Mûr de Bretagne. The Dutchman lost all of the advantage he earned in the first week, coming in 53 seconds down and then being docked a further 20 seconds for excessive drafting off his team car.
After finishing the stage, Dumoulin quickly made a U-turn and rode off the 2km climb, heading for the Team Sunweb bus. Later, Dumoulin addressed the awaiting media scrum to explain what went wrong.
"I felt good today. I was well positioned behind Sagan when there was a movement in the peloton. I rode into the rear wheel of [Romain] Bardet. I was unable to avoid him. One of my spokes broke and I was unable to continue," he said.
"It was tough [to keep your cool] but there's nothing more you can do but to ride as fast as possible to the finish. Then it's about limiting damages but that's harder than it seems. I needed to change wheels and chased to the finish as fast as possible. I knew we weren't going to get back on though."
Team Sky set a fierce pace, and there was indeed no chance to get back to the front of the peloton.
"You try to limit the damages," Dumoulin said. "I tried to change wheels as soon as possible. I didn't know how far the team car was behind. Simon Geschke immediately gave his wheel, and we got it on my bike as quick as possible. We rode to the finish as hard as possible, but you know you're going to lose time. I heard I lost about 52 seconds. It could've been better."
Bardet lost 31 seconds on Thursday, finishing in 33rd place. The damage for Dumoulin was more severe as he crossed the line atop the Mûr de Bretagne in 46th place at 53 seconds from winner Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates) – the advantage he had on Tour favourite Chris Froome wiped out in five kilometres.
"We knew that we'd been very lucky during the first five days. We also knew that bad luck could also hit us and it did today. It's very unfortunate but it's how it is. I'm disappointed of course.
"I would've liked to have been in a better position in GC. Of course, I'm not in a terrible position right now, but I'd have loved to have been better positioned though. The bonus of the first days is gone," Dumoulin said before heading back into the team bus.
At the time he made the comments, Dumoulin may not have been aware that he had been given a time penalty from the race jury for drafting behind the team car of director sportif Luke Roberts. It proved to be a costly tactic. Instead of being just one second down on Chris Froome, Dumoulin tumbled back to 19th place overall at 1:23 from race leader Greg Van Avermaet and 21 seconds from Froome.
On Wednesday, Dumoulin lost a valuable teammate with Michael Matthews, who struggled with a stomach virus. Just before 'La Grande Boucle' got underway, his lieutenant Wilco Kelderman was forced to call off his participation due to a crash at the Dutch national championships one week earlier.