Stage 11 filled with crashes

Cyclist Alberto Contador, right, gets back on his bicycle after crashing with teammate Michael Gogl, left, during the 11th stage of the Tour de France between Eymet and Pau, France, on Wednesday. AP PHOTO

PAU, France — Ahead of two grueling days filled with some truly punishing ascents, the main contenders on the Tour de France were all hoping that Wednesday would be a nice, relaxed day on the bike.

It didn’t happen.

Instead of what riders call a “transition” day, with a comfortable run to the gateway to the Pyrenees mountains, Stage 11 proved to be a brutal experience for some of the top riders after a series of crashes left them nursing cuts and bruises.

When crosswinds started making the bunch nervous toward the end of the 203.5-kilometer (126-mile) stage from Eymet to Pau, the stress became palpable and led to several crashes at the back of the peloton.

German sprinter Marcel Kittel steered clear of trouble and claimed the stage in a sprint finish, taking his tally to five stage wins since the race started.

But Frenchman Romain Bardet, who is third overall behind race leader Chris Froome, was not so fortunate. He hit the deck and slightly hurt his knee, but the AG2R La Mondiale rider was able to continue after changing bikes and did not lose any time.

“It was a nervous day and I was caught in a crash,” said Bardet, who is trying to become the first Frenchman to win the Tour since Bernard Hinault last managed the feat in 1985.

“It’s never enjoyable to fall. I just have to soak it up and to wait for better days.”

Two- time champion Alberto Contador went down twice, while secondplace Fabio Aru lost one of his Astana teammates when Dario Cataldo was forced to retire with a broken wrist after a crash in the feed zone midway through the stage.

Fifth-place Jakob Fuglsang, another Astana rider expected to play a key role alongside Aru in the mountains, was caught in the same crash. He was able to reach the finish, but Astana sports director Dmitry Fofonov said Fuglsang also had a wrist injury.

“It was a nervous day,” Froome said of the crashes. “Everything was good on our side.”

Froome kept his overall lead intact ahead of the big battle in the Pyrenees. He has an 18 second-lead over Aru, with Bardet 51 seconds off the pace. Trailing 55 seconds behind Froome in the general classification, Rigoberto Uran remains in contention and Fuglsang is still within reach of the podium, 1:37 behind the yellow jersey.

Today’s stage will be extremely difficult, with six big climbs — three of them either rated Category 1 or “hors categorie” — beyond categorizing. It features a short, but steep uphill finish at an altitude of 1,580 meters (5,200 feet).

Froome described the finish as “quite savage.”

“ If someone blows in those few hundred meters, there could be some really significant time gaps,” the Team Sky leader said.

0
0
0
0
0
You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.