After only the first major mountain stage, Tour de France leader Vincenzo Nibali has already been isolated in the climbs, and has now suffered injury to his main mountain helper, Jakob Fuglsang, who crashed on Friday's stage 13.
Fuglsang's body was scraped up and bruised in the fall, but is expected to continue on in the race.
"I just kept thinking that if I could stop sliding it would be okay – because the more you slide, the more it is going to hurt," Fuglsang said of his wreck.
The Dane finished the stage on his own, arms wrapped up with bandages and his clothing in tatters, over 30 minutes down on his stage-winning teammate, but is determined to stay by the side of Nibali in the next two difficult mountain stages in the Alps. "It will be a painful day after a painful night."
Astana Team manager Alexander Vinokourov admitted to Eurosport that it was not an easy day for the team, but did not expect Fuglsang's injuries to affect their defense of the maillot jaune. "We knew it was going to be a tricky one, but it could be good for us. Porte had a bad day which was good for us, and Vincenzo had the opportunity to work with the French guys and do very well. Today he showed he's the boss," Vinokourov said.
"Tomorrow is going to be a tough stage, we hope we have Fuglsang back because it's a hard day and Vincenzo needs his team. Some of our team were not as strong as others from other teams."
The cause of the wreck seems to be a bottle dropped by Lotto Belisol's Jurgen Van Den Broeck. Fuglsang complained about the Belgian on Twitter after the stage, stating he ran over a Lotto bottle. He since deleted the comment. Van Den Broeck later replied, stating, "I hope [Fuglsang] is ok. Didn't throw away my water bottle, it fell out of the bidon cage. Apologies for crash and injuries ... I feel really sorry for it ... I really could not do anything about it."
Vinokourov was optimistic the team could keep Nibali in the race lead. He holds a 3:37 advantage over Alejandro Valverde (Movistar). "It's not a very bad fall, but it's always painful. Tomorrow, with the heat it will be hard for him to recover. But we will find a way to control the race and Jakob will recover for the final week."
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