Christian Vande Velde (Garmin-Transitions) crashed and lost nearly ten minutes on stage 2 of the Tour de France from Brussels to Spa. He was taken to hospital along with teammates Tyler Farrar and Julian Dean. Two other Garmin riders, Robbie Hunter and David Millar, also fell during the stage.
Vande Velde came into the race as the team's GC contender and although nearly all of the pre-race favourites crashed, the 34-year-old American was unable to regroup with the leaders and now sits in 146th place, 9:50 down in the overall classification. With such a big time gap to his rivals and uncertainty over whether he will start tomorrow's stage, team director, Matt White admitted that Vande Velde's overall aspirations could already be over.
"I've never seen so many guys come down in such a short period of time, I think half the bunch could have crashed today. As for Christian, the overall is pretty much over assuming that he rides tomorrow. First priority is to make sure he's okay," White said.
The stage was marred by crashes. Dean was the first Garmin rider to go down before a large proportion of the field crashed on the descent of the Stockeu. However, White, who raced as a professional for US Postal and Cofidis amongst others, was quick not to lay the blame at the organisers for including the descent in the race.
"Nothing is ever too dangerous. Yes, it was a slippery day but it's the same roads they raced on at Liège-Bastogne-Liège. I don't know if there was oil on the roads or what but there were numerous huge crashes."
After the descent, the yellow jersey group led by Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) sat up and waited for the majority of the field to regroup. The peloton then rode to the finish without contesting the sprint. White, who dictates the Garmin-Transitions tactics from the team car, wasn't aware of where the go-slow orders came from.
"I have no idea. It was obviously something they were talking about in the bunch. We could tell they weren't racing but we had five guys who crashed. Christian, Tyler, Julian, Robbie and David. It was pandemonium and crash upon crash. It hasn't been a good day."
The Tour hasn't been kind to the boys in Argyle so far this year. Tyler Farrar finished in an excellent top ten position in Saturday's prologue but Vande Velde lost over a minute to winner Cancellara. On stage one Farrar missed out of the sprint finale within 300 meters of the line when his bike became tangled in that of another rider who had fallen off.