UnitedHealthcare suffer double blow at Tour of California

UnitedHealthcare suffered a setback on Monday during stage 2 of the Amgen Tour of California when Chris Jones and team leader Rory Sutherland hit the ground on the climb up Bonny Doon about 120 kilometres into the race.

Team doctor Michael Roshon said Jones suffered a deep laceration to his knee and is questionable for the start of stage 3 Tuesday, while Sutherland dislocated his ring finger but is expected to take the line for the start in San Jose.

“We were riding up the climb and some idiot decided to fall off on the outfill,” Sutherland said. “There seemed to be a lot of crashes today. I don't know what it is, but there doesn't seem to be the confidence where certain riders can take control and have confidence. It seems to be a bit of where everyone is waiting for someone to do something. We race into the corner at Bonny Doon with 80k to go and then we ride tempo up the climb, and that's where crashes happen.”

Sutherland and Jones, who took the brunt of the damage in the relatively slow-speed crash, remounted quickly, caught back onto the lead group and then went to the front on the next climb.

“We took over on the last climb because I said to Chris Jones it's better that we just ride the front, do the climb and stay safe and then we just move back on the descent,” he said. “And now two of us are heading off to the hospital to get X-rays.”

Radioshack-Nissan's Matthew Busche also went down hard behind two BMC riders in the final kilometres, a crash Sutherland missed by going to the front for safety. The move launched the Australian into the lead for short run at the line.

“I was feeling sorry for myself the whole last 10k hitting every bump with my hand,” he said. “And then as we turned the corner with 3k to go I moved up to stay out of trouble and went up a slight rise and thought, well, I'm going a bit quicker than some of them, I might as well keep going.

“We held it off for quite a while,” he said. “So it makes a good day for the team, even though we had some bad luck. We'll come back tomorrow. The boys are riding well and my legs are great, so it should get better everyday.”

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Growing up in Missoula, Montana, Pat competed in his first bike race in 1985 at Flathead Lake. He studied English and journalism at the University of Oregon and has covered North American cycling extensively since 2009, as well as racing and teams in Europe and South America. Pat currently lives in the US outside of Portland, Oregon, with his imaginary dog Rusty.