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CARENTAN, France (CT) – The results sheet shows that stage 1 of the 2016 Tour de France was decided in a bunch sprint. But already the battle for the general classification has come into focus with one of the race’s overall contenders, Alberto Contador (Tinkoff), crashing heavily on the opening stage.
With 77km of the 188km stage remaining, Contador’s front wheel slid out as the peloton flew around a right-hand corner at high speed. The two-time former winner of the race landed on his right shoulder before sliding dramatically into a traffic island.
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While the wound on Contador’s shoulder appeared significant, initial reports suggest the damage is minor.
“When we saw him he said ‘It’s all ok, all ok’ but I need the doctor to clean the wounds,” Tinkoff director sportif Steven de Jongh told CyclingTips. “But this is obviously the first reaction of a rider who crashes … to go on the bike and ride and they don’t think about any pain.
“I hope it’s like this — I hope there’s no fractures or ripped tendons or whatever. The wounds in the shoulder looked pretty big so the impact must have been hard.”
Contador himself was glad he didn’t sustain more serious injuries, but admits he’s not yet out of the woods.
“Fortunately, I don’t have to go home and I will try to go through the following days in the best way possible so that I reach the mountains recovered,” Contador said via a team press release. “We will go to the hotel and assess the situation.
“When I place my shoulder in a certain position I am worried.”
While unfortunate, such incidents are a common occurrence in the nervous opening days of a Grand Tour.
“You don’t want to crash the first week of the Tour [but] you know that the possibility is there — there’s a high risk of crashes,” de Jonge told CyclingTips. “This was just an unfortunate accident with [Brent] Bookwalter who crashed and took him out. It’s just a race incident; it happens.”
While De Jongh pointed to BMC’s Brent Bookwalter as the cause of Contador’s spill, amateur vision of the incident suggests Contador was the first to fall, with Bookwalter close behind.
Contador himself offered the following analysis of the incident:
“The race was very tense and everybody was fighting to position themselves in the front because of the wind,” Contador said. “We were well positioned and very attentive but at a turn, a number of riders hit the central reservation.
“My front wheel got off and I also think that was the case with some others. We fell, hit the ground and skidded. In addition, another rider fell on me and hit my shoulder.”
In the immediate aftermath of the crash, Robert Kiserlovski (Tinkoff) gave Contador his bike before the latter took a new bike from the team car. Contador then changed his shoes — as Matteo Tosatto bravely carried Contador’s insoles in his mouth — before riding back to the bunch, which had been slowed by Fabian Cancellara.
“I’m happy with that,” De Jongh said of Cancellara stepping in to allow Contador to chase back. “If that’s the spirit in the peloton at the moment I think we can be happy.
“Alberto was not in the jersey at all so there was no reason to wait for him, but they wait for him. And I respect that a lot.”
A visit to the race doctor’s car allowed Contador to get his shoulder strapped. He would go on to finish the stage on bunch time, in 86th place.
Tomorrow’s second stage of the 2016 Tour is expected to deliver some time gaps in the general classification with much of the last 3km being uphill. It remains to be seen whether today’s crash will hamper Contador in any way. For the moment, though, he’s focused on recovery.
“Now, it’s a question of applying ice, doing a treatment with the Inbida [massage – ed.] machine and making sure the inflammation doesn’t get worse. I have scratches all over the right part of my body, from the ankle up to the shoulder.
“What can we do? That’s cycling. You might prepare intensely for months and then you crash. However, the Tour doesn’t finish here. We have to be optimistic and focus on the following hours in order to rest and recover as much as possible for tomorrow morning.”