Canadian Svein Tuft took tenth place in the stage three time trial at Circuit Cycliste Sarthe today, a good result for his Spidertech-C10 team, but one which belies the extraordinary circumstances in which he had to complete the 6.8 kilometre stage.
A pre-race favourite, Tuft was on track to contend for the stage win, poised perhaps to deliver his team its first big success in its nascent Pro Continental season.
The 33-year-old Canadian time trial champion was taking the usual risks of a top time trialist on the short, technical course, testing the limits of traction in his tires while using his bike handling skills to keep himself upright when, near the mid-point of the race, disaster struck.
He hit a bump in the road and cracked off one of his carbon aero bar extensions, and unfortunately it was the one with the controller for his rear derailleur attached.
With the bar dangling from the electric wire used to shift his Shimano Di2, and more tight turns, speed bumps and descents in the coming three kilometres, Tuft continued to plow ahead, much to the amazement of his directeur sportif, Steve Bauer.
"I could not believe Svein kept it together," said Bauer. "He was entering technical turns with one arm, trying to get his shift right and the entire time trying to keep his top speed - which was impossible. ...
"Watching him powering at over 60 km per hour, imbalanced and running speed bumps with one arm was crazy," added Bauer.
Tuft managed to finish the stage just 13 seconds behind winner Daniele Bennati, although he admits that he will be hard-pressed to gain back enough time to contend for the overall stage race win.
"This lost time is going to be tough to get back," said Tuft . "My fitness is really good and I was on a great ride before it all went wrong. I am pretty gutted after aiming for this event for a few weeks now."
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