The opening week of the Tour de France always claims a casualty or several, though after seven stages this year, only two riders have left the race, and crashes in the nervous peloton seem few and far between.
Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) became one of the unlucky few on the road from Belfort to Chalon-sur-Saône on Friday, crashing hard just seven kilometres into stage 7 – the longest of the race. The American managed to complete the remaining 223 kilometres, eventually finishing the six-hour slog 3:13 down in 158th place, but whether he'll continue in the race remains a question.
"We know he just hit a piece of road pretty early on in the race," EF team manager Jonathan Vaughters said after the finish. "[It was] just a central divider with a pole sticking up, and he hit the pole. So yeah, it's not fun hitting a concrete pole."
The full extent of van Garderen's injuries is yet to be determined, though television pictures showed him clearly bleeding from the face after his crash. The American lingered on the pavement after crashing with stage 1 winner Mike Teunissen (Jumbo-Visma).
"We don't exactly know [about his injuries]," said Vaughters. "The biggest thing he's been complaining about is his thumb, but obviously he hit his face pretty hard too.
"There's no concussion, we know that much. He's scraped up pretty bad. Whether or not there's a broken bone in his hand, that's yet to be determined."
According to the Tour's official medical report, van Garderen also suffered from numerous bruises, something that was confirmed by EF directeur sportif Charly Wegelius earlier in the day.
After teammates Simon Clarke, Alberto Bettiol and Tanel Kangert waited for van Garderen to get going again, the 2012 white jersey winner stuck with the peloton on a slow day before dropping away as the peloton hit full tilt in the closing kilometres.
"He only got dropped out of the peloton with five kilometres to go," said Vaughters. "That was actually more than we expected. He put in a tough ride, that's for sure."
After the stage, van Garderen was set for a check over by the EF team doctor, with the team promising a fresh update on his condition later in the evening.
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