Saturday, July 07, 2012

Duo crash out as team left wounded

Euskaltel's Tour hopes took a major turn for the worse today as both Mikel Astarloza and Amets Txurruka crashed out of the race. In addition, it seems increasingly likely Gorka Verdugo won't be at the start tomorrow.

In what will undoubtedly be looked back on as one of the more defining days of this year's Tour, Euskaltel got off particularly badly. Well, unlike many teams, Euskaltel's captain stayed upright and out of trouble (which wasn't the case with Gesink, Schleck, Valverde, Scarponi, Hesjedal et al.), but losing key lieutenants Astarloza and Txurruka is a major hit for the team. If Gorka Verdugo also decides to pull out, the team will be left with only five riders to lend Samu a hand in the last two weeks. The day could hardly have turned out any worse.

The massive pile-up with some 25 clicks to go put paid to many GC candidates' Tour hopes. Samu wasn't hampered though, and stayed with the front group. He thus advanced to 20th on GC, only 40 seconds down on leader Cancellara. To be that close to the leader after a chaotic first week of the Tour can only be classified as a success, but the 34-year-old wasn't keen to talk about his own chances post-race.

"I'm not thinking about the general classification now, who lost time and who didn't", he told the team's website. "What's important for me is the team, my companions. It's been a very bad day. We were completing a great first week, but that one crash hurt the team a lot. They are three great riders who know their jobs, are good at what they do, and would have had a prominent role to play in the mountains. Mikel didn't finish, and we'll see about Amets and Gorka, but it doesn't look good. Their absence will be felt as they're great team-mates."

Upon completion of the stage, it was confirmed Astarloza had dislocated his left elbow and thus face some time on the sidelines. Txurruka, brave as ever, finished the race, but was diagnosed with a fractured right collarbone afterwards. So no surprises there, then. It's the fourth consecutive Tour de France the diminutive climber has been forced to abandon due to injury, and one can only imagine how he must be feeling to see his career never getting off the ground because of bad luck. As for Verdugo, he suffered a deep cut to one of his legs. He's been struggling with a bad hip ever since hitting the deck in the prologue, and is classed as a "serious doubt" for tomorrow. My gut feeling says he'll be forced to go home, but luckily I seem to get most of my predictions wrong.

Looking towards tomorrow's stage, the first day in the mountains, Samu says the finishing climb of La Planche de Belles Filles reminds him of a climb he's enjoyed considerable success at in the past.

"It reminds me a bit of Arrate, only that this one's a wee bit harder. We checked it out before going to the Dauphiné. It's a climb with a combination of steep ramps and false flats. It's a hard ascent, and the yellow jersey might change owner. While it's one for the explosive riders, it will hardly create big gaps."

Stage seven from Tomblaine to La Planche de Belles Filles over 199 kilometres will provide the first showdown between the GC riders. Check out the profile and a preview here.

More news to come tomorrow morning as news on Verdugo's state come in.

Stage six results:
  • (1, Peter Sagan (Liquigas), 4:37:00)
  • 19, Samuel Sánchez, 0:04
  • 22, Rubén Pérez, s.t.
  • 31, Egoi Martínez, s.t.
  • 35, Gorka Izagirre, s.t.
  • 45, Jorge Azanza, s.t.
  • 70, Pablo Urtasun, 0:32
  • 186, Gorka Verdugo, 13:24
  • 189, Amets Txurruka, s.t.
  • DNF: Mikel Astarloza


Stephen said...

Hard to know what the tour organisers can do about this but every year it seems to get worse, I think its up to the riders to start respecting each other more and for the GC contenders to let go of the 'stay at the front' mantra a bit and relax. The injuries from yesterday were some of the worst I have seen in 25 years of watching cycling, crashes like that are happening far too often these days.

Poor Amets, will his luck ever change?

Magnus said...

Nope, Amets seems doomed to crash at the most important races. What a wasted four-five years for him...


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