PRA LOUP, France (CT) – The rider who started the day third overall, Tejay van Garderen, saw his hopes of a Tour podium evaporate on stage 17 of the race, with the American withdrawing during the stage.
Van Garderen got into difficulties early on, losing contact, and while he fought his way back into the bunch he went out the back again on the category 2 Col de la Colle and finally quit the race.
He had twice finished fifth overall in the Tour and after riding very strongly early on, was as high as second overall behind Chris Froome (Sky).
He started stage 17 three minutes 32 seconds back in third overall.
Also exiting the race on the first Alpine stage were Cannondale-Garmin’s Tour debutant Nathan Haas, world champion Michal Kwiatkowski (Etixx-QuickStep) and Bora-Argon 18 sprinter Sam Bennett.
The latter had a fever on the rest day and while he felt in much better condition prior to the start of stage 17, he got into difficulties early on and ended his first Tour.
BMC team director Jim Ochowicz said that the squad would need to identify new targets after what was a big blow to its morale.
“It’s sport, it happens in every sport. We lost our GC contender for the podium, we’ll have to refocus tonight and set up new goals for the rest of the Tour,” he said.
“We still have four big days, we’re not going away. We’ll be there fighting for something new.
“Tejay is disappointed. He would have liked to finish the Tour. He’s got a lot of pressure on his shoulders, he’s feeling the pain. He understands it’s win or lose and he’ll fight back. We started the stage thinking he would be OK. I feel bad for Tejay, for the team. We start over tomorrow, we’ve still got goals.”
Van Garderen said in a press release, “To be fighting for a podium in the Tour de France, and then the next minute you are sitting in the car, was really hard. It was hard to look my teammates in the eyes. It was hard to call my wife and explain to her what was going on. It was a lot of emotions.”
Van Garderen said he had been fighting a cold he picked up after Stage 13.
“For awhile I was dealing with it just fine,” he said. “It was just a little bit of the sniffles and not a big deal. But it kept getting a little bit worse. Then, on the rest day (Tuesday), I was having some feverish symptoms and chills. This morning, I woke up and thought the worst of it had passed. I felt ready to race and was back, closer to normal. But then once I got out there, the muscles just had no energy. Straight away from the start, I kind of knew this wasn’t good and hopefully I could just hide and maybe ride into it for a few kilometers and start to feel better. But the sensations never came. It is hugely disappointing.”