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GAP, France (CT) – Geraint Thomas (Sky) has avoided serious injury after crashing on the notorious final descent to Gap on stage 16 of the Tour de France.
Thomas was descending the Col de Manse in a group containing most of the GC favourites — including his teammate and overall leader Chris Froome — when Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) overshot a corner and collided with him.
“We were just coming into a tight right and everyone was braking,” Thomas told reporters after the stage. “All of a sudden Barguil just come straight into me and knocked me flying into a lamp post and down a ditch.”
While there was a considerable drop-off by the side of the road, Thomas got tangled up in a makeshift barrier, stopping him from falling further. He was helped back up to the road by a bystander before getting back on his bike and riding through to the finish with the support of teammate Wout Poels.
Thomas was swamped by reporters after crossing the line and expressed his frustration at the incident.
“I just don’t understand some guys, you know?,” Thomas said. “Just stay where you are — there’s only eight of us in the group. Everyone knows it’s a dodgy descent. Just get down it safe in one line.”
Warren Barguil was apologetic after the stage, suggesting the crash was little more than an honest mistake.
“I’m sorry, said Barguil. “Just before the corner, Tejay van Garderen hit me in the shoulder and my finger on the brake lever slipped. I could not brake. I was very afraid, I thought I was going to go straight on [over the edge].”
Tejay van Garderen offered his own interpretation of the incident via team press release.
“Some riders were definitely taking some big risks,” van Garderen said. “Warren was trying to come over the top of me.
“It was a matter of who braked the latest and [Barguil] was willing to take big risks and took out Geraint Thomas and almost took out himself.”
The serpentine descent from the Col de Manse to Gap has become notorious in recent years, not least because of a crash on stage 9 of the 2003 Tour de France in which Spaniard Joseba Beloki was seriously injured, effectively ending his career. Several riders and former riders have been critical of its inclusion in subsequent editions of the race, including in 2015.
Anybody seen the stress and crashes on the descent?!Thats why i absolutly dissagree to have this mountain in the Tour! Toally wrong decision
— Jens Voigt (@thejensie) July 20, 2015
Despite hitting his head in the crash, Thomas appeared to be in good health and good spirits when he re-emerged from the team bus to speak with journalists.
“I hit my head on the lamp post but I’m all alright,” Thomas said. “The doctor will ask me a few questions, my name and stuff. I’ll tell him I’m Chris Froome.”
“I lost my glasses as well,” Thomas said. “They don’t even make them any more.”
Thomas finished the stage just 38 seconds behind the group he’d been in when he crashed and will retain his sixth place in the general classification. Today’s stage was won by Spaniard Ruben Plaza who attacked from the day-long breakaway on the Col de Manse climb and soloed to victory.