One day ahead of the Vosges mountain stages, Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol) expressed his joy about finally heading into the mountains after crashing for three days in a row during the opening stages of the Tour de France. During a stormy stage 8, however, the Belgian rider was unable to live up his GC expectations as he faded on the summit finish to La Mauselaine, and lost 1:17 minutes to riders like Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo).
Lotto-Belisol had not expected Van Den Broeck to struggle so much during the small mountain sections of the race, but the atmosphere at the team's camp was not too down-hearted. The 31-year-old Belgian didn't talk to the media at the finish line and took his time to freshen up on the team bus before taking a seat on the steps of the bus. Just like a day earlier, Van Den Broeck sounded quite upbeat and he explained that it was an off-day caused by his three crashes during the three previous stages.
"The doctor told me that I should not underestimate the impact of the three crashes on my body and that's why I'm not panicking. My legs were not good today but on La Planche des Belles Filles, I lost much more in 2012 and I even came fourth. I'm at about a minute from the third place I'm targeting so I don't have to panic. The high mountains are still coming up but it’s a pity I dropped a few places today. Monday could be completely different. What's a minute on a high mountain? And I managed to stay upright," Van Den Broeck said.
When trying to analyze his race, Van Den Broeck explained that the fast pace set by the Tinkoff-Saxo team took his breath away. "On the Col de la Croix des Moinats, it went really hard and I didn't feel 100 per cent. On the second climb, I got going better and I knew I had to limit my losses," Van Den Broeck said.
He was still among the select group coming over the top of the penultimate climb, the Col de Grosse Pierre, but he lost touch on the descent due to a crash from Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp). "He was sliding away right next to me. I had to swerve and was heading straight towards a child. Luckily his dad was able to pull the kid away. Due to the crash, I lost contact with the group. If you have to make up a hundred metres when you're not feeling great then you have to take risks."
The gap grew over the top of La Mauselaine where Van Den Broeck finished in 18th position together with Pierre Rolland (Europcar), more than a minute after the top favourites for the podium in Paris.
Compunding the time loss, Van Den Broeck lost the services of Bart De Clercq who abandoned during the stage having not recovered from a crash on stage four which was affecting his ankle.
"Losing Bart De Clercq is of course sad," Lotto's team manager Marc Sergeant said. "We had hoped he could recover, but his ankle injury is too bad to continue the Tour."
On Sunday's stage 9, there’s a relatively easy second day in the Vosges mountain. On Monday's stage 10, the Belgian will get a second chance to perform on La Planche des Belles Filles, where a dropped chain at the foot of the final climb ruined his day in 2012.