SAINT-JEAN-DE-MAURIENNE, France (CT) – Astana rider Jakob Fuglsang believes his chances of winning today’s stage 18 of the Tour de France were scuppered when he was hit by a motorbike on the slopes of the Col du Glandon.
Fuglsang was in a three-rider lead group with eventual stage-winner Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) and Pierre Rolland (Europcar), the trio having split off from a bigger breakaway group which led for much of the stage.
“Pierre Rolland attacked and [Romain] Bardet and me, we went with,” Fuglsang said after the stage. “For me it was all about getting the mountain points — that was my first objective there. I was happy to leave [KOM leader Joaquim] Rodriguez and Serge Pauwels behind, so I took a good pull.”
The incident occurred roughly 2km from the end of the 21.7km ascent of the Col du Glandon.
“[At the] moment I pulled over to leave the front to Bardet, [a] motorbike came from behind and hit my handlebar and took me the ground,” Fuglsang said at the Astana team bus after the stage. Footage of the incident, posted to Twitter by Denmark’s TV 2 Sport, shows the same moto nearly colliding with Ryder Hesjedal (Cannondale-Garmin) moments before striking Fuglsang.
— TV 2 SPORT (@TV2SPORTdk) July 23, 2015
At the front of the race, Romain Bardet dropped Rolland and was joined by Winner Anacona (Movistar) near the top of the Col du Glandon before leaving the Colombian behind on the descent.
Bardet would lead the race solo down the Glandon, up the serpentine Lacets de Montvenier climb and down to the finish in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. After roughly 30km off the front on his own, Bardet won the stage by 33 seconds ahead of compatriot Pierre Rolland (Europcar). Fuglsang, meanwhile, crossed the line in fifth, having joined up with a small group towards the end.
The Danish rider told journalists after the stage that he believed he was in with a chance of winning his first Tour de France stage had he not been hampered by the moto incident.
“I believe I could have followed [Bardet],” Fuglsang said. “The other stage when I was on a breakaway with him I was stronger than him in the end so I’m convinced that I could have been there today also to battle for the stage victory.”
“He can be happy he’s not close to me now, that motorcycle driver,” an angry Fuglsang said directly after the finish. ASO announced after the stage that the moto driver had been banned from the Tour de France “for dangerous driving that caused [Fuglsang] to crash”.
Despite his initial frustration, Fuglsang appeared to be in good spirits when he emerged from the team bus, telling journalists he wasn’t seriously injured in the crash.
“I have on the hip a small wound and then the [right] elbow — we’ll have to see when we come back in the hotel if I need stitches or if it’s enough with a bandage,” Fuglsang said. “I feel possibly I’ve pulled a ligament in my leg.”
After another day in the break today, Fuglsang now sits third in the mountains classification on 64 points. Dual stage winner Joaquim Rodriguez leads that classification with 68 points, having taken the lead from overall leader Chris Froome on today’s stage. Stage winner Romain Bardet is second, also on 68 points.
Despite being in some pain from the incident, Fuglsang has said he will attempt to take the lead in the mountains classification if he can. But as the 30-year-old admits, he’s running out of time.
“There’s only two days to go,” Fuglsang said, referring to the days of this year’s Tour with KOM points on offer. “I will have to try if I want to take the mountain jersey.
“A stage victory is for sure going to be difficult and so is the mountain jersey but I’m not going to give up yet. We’ll see how it goes.”