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by Shane Stokes
July 7, 2015
Photography by Kristof Ramon
HUY, Belgium (CT) – Former stage winner and past yellow jersey Simon Gerrans (Orica GreenEdge) was one of several riders forced to retire from the Tour de France Monday due to a big crash which occurred approximately 58 kilometres from the finish.
Also amongst those who are out are William Bonnet (FDJ) and the best young rider, Giant-Alpecin’s Tom Dumoulin (Giant). Race leader Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing) was also affected, although he was able to continue on his bike, albeit looking sore and groggy.
The fall occurred when the front wheel of a FDJ rider was clipped by another in front of him, sending him to the ground at high speed. A cascade of others then went down, with some riders sliding into a lamppost.
Cancellara was slowing but was also caught up in the collapsing group of riders, hitting the deck. His bike was flung high in the air, showing the force of the crash.
He took several minutes to get going, taking a spare bike and then being paced back on behind the team car. He shook his head several times and clearly didn’t feel well.
Cancellara’s passage back to the front was aided by a very rare decision by the race organisation to neutralise the race. Tour director Christian Prudhomme first slowed the bunch from his car. Several minutes later Sky put the hammer down and the bunch was once again instructed to slow.
Soon afterwards the organisation stopped the peloton altogether, at which point Cancellara rejoined.
This unexpected lull in action was used by riders such as Greg Henderson (Lotto Soudal), Michael Matthews (Orica GreenEdge) and others to get medical attention. The race then restarted.
There was no immediate reason given for the neutralisation, which has rarely if ever been carried out on the Tour. A suggestion then emerged that the reason for the decision was a shortage of ambulances after the initial crash; had other riders subsequently fallen, there was a danger that immediate medical assistance would not have been possible.
After climbing the Côte de Bohisseau at a slow pace, the riders were given a green light to begin racing again with 50 kilometres to go.
Gerrans has had a very unlucky season, missing his first scheduled races due to a mountainbike crash and then falling in his comeback race, the Strade Bianche. He worked to return for the Ardennes Classics but crashed out of Liège-Bastogne-Liège.