After the opening stage of the 2016 Tour de France on Saturday, the peloton is already looking like a rag-tag bunch with multiple crashes bringing down many riders, both domestiques and marquee-names alike.
Though racing together as a large group is not an unknown to the riders, another dimension comes with the Tour. It is grander, with over 2,000 accredited press. There is not only added pressure on the riders to perform, but the teams as well. This is a crucially important event for the sponsors.
The added depth brings a truckload of stress and an already-chaotic first week gets ramped up to new heights. Add in a pancake flat opening stage along northwest France with crosswinds and it’s a disaster waiting to happen.
Astana’s Diego Rosa took the honour of being the first rider to fall in this year’s Tour and lucky for the Italian, he fell after a slowing of the peloton and came away relatively unscathed. Many others didn’t experience such good luck.
Alberto Contador’s gruesome looking tumble into a curb with 77km to go, sent shockwaves across social media. The Spaniard landed hard on his right shoulder and his jersey was ragged on the right-hand side. He was seen grimacing in pain during his chase back into the peloton.
— Alberto Contador (@albertocontador) July 2, 2016
Tinkoff Sport Director Sean Yates seemed to downplay the extent of Contador’s injuries after the stage. “Alberto’s crash was the only real stress point today, but got back OK quickly with the help of the team. We will now see how he recovers,” Yates said after the stage. “He’s cut up on the upper shoulder and upper back, which will be uncomfortable, but he’s being checked out for any damage. It’s not a great way to start but other than that it wasn’t a bad day.”
Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing) crashed alongside Contador. Bookwalter’s fall put the American audience on high-alert. The Asheville, North Carolina resident was recently selected to the U.S. Olympic road team.
“Brent sustained multiple contusions involving the left side of the upper and lower body,” Dr. Max Testa, BMC’s chief medical officer, said in a team release. “The most worrisome at this point in time is the right hip where he landed with a high-energy impact. We will continue to evaluate Brent tonight in the hotel and decide the plan of care accordingly. All of the other injuries are limited to superficial abrasions to his shoulders and a right elbow laceration.”
Bookwalter is a solid Grand Tour veteran and a key member in BMC’s Tour squad. His all-rounder ability makes him an important asset to help escort Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen through the first week and be a super-domestigue when the race tilts upwards.
The American’s Tour continuance looked to never be in doubt, albeit the next couple of stages will be a bit more painful.
Thanks for the messages! I’m OK. Tough way to start but plenty of TDF left to ramp it back up.
— Brent Bookwalter (@brentbookwalter) July 2, 2016
Michael Morkov (Katusha) clipped a fan leaning too far over the barriers in the final 500 metres of the race and was sent to the ground in a heap. He appears to be the worst-off out of all of the riders that kissed the pavement on Saturday and his start on stage 2 appears to be very much in doubt.
Thanks for all messages, i am ok, nothing broken (exc. my bike), but a big hit on my leg, does it impossible to walk.
— Michael Mørkøv (@MichaelMorkov) July 2, 2016
X-rays after the stage revealed no fractures or broken bones, though the Danish rider does have a large hematoma on his right thigh.
Morkov’s body wasn’t the only thing that took a beating in the crash. His bike broke into multiple pieces in the high-speed fall.
— Team KATUSHA (@katushacycling) July 2, 2016
Sam Bennett (Bora-Argon 18) and Michael Matthews (Orica-BikeExchange) both hit in the tarmac as well in Morkov’s crash, though the Australian came away relatively uninjured. The Irishman, Bennett, was sent to the hospital for further examination. Despite fears of fractures, he recieved a bit of positive news although his start on stage two is still up in the air.
— BORA – ARGON 18 (@BoraArgon18) July 2, 2016
“Michael [Matthews] got caught up in the crash just before the sprint, which was unfortunate, but thankfully he is ok,” Matt White, Orica-BikeExchange sport director, said after the stage.
While Matthews hoped to mix it up in the sprint on stage one, the second stage appears to better suit his style with a punchy parcours on tap for the finale. Luckily for him it seems all systems are a go to pursue victory on Sunday.
The Tour de France has only just begun, but already a remarkable number of riders, among them high-profile ones, will be nursing injuries. With more than 3,200km still go, those nursing injuries will have to look deep inside themselves to the find the extra strength now required to finish. Paris and the Champs-Élysées look to be that little farther away now.